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Koko Di Koko Da Main

Koko-di Koko-da Movie Review

Written by Ren Zelen

Released by Picturehouse Entertainment


Written and directed by Johannes Nyholm
2019, 86 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released on 27th March 2020

Leif Edlund Johansson as Tobias
Peter Belli as Mog
Ylva Gallon as Elin
Katarina Jakobson as Maja
Morad Baloo Khatchadorian as Sampo
Brandy Litmanen as Cherry


I have personally never understood the attraction of camping. My idea of getting close to nature involves a nice cottage with hot running water, a bed, a toilet and a shower. Being a lifelong city dweller, I welcome the opportunity of being far away from the madding crowd, but as many horror flicks have indicated, when you end up in the middle of nowhere, you’d better hope you are indeed, quite securely alone.

If I ever had any curiosity regarding sleeping in a flimsy tent in remote, mosquito-infested woodlands, Swedish writer-director Johannes Nyholm's film, Koko-di Koko-da would certainly have put paid to that.

His film revolves around a bereaved couple, Tobias (Leif Edlund Johansson) and Elin (Ylva Gallon), who are caught in a repeating cycle where they seem unable to escape a gruesome fate at the hands of a demonic trio straight out of Swedish folklore — malicious, cane-wielding dandy Mog (Peter Belli), hulking giant Sampo (Morad Khatchadorian) and taciturn, raven-haired Cherry (Brandy Litmanen) and their animal companions, a red-eyed cat, Sampo’s dead dog and Cherry’s very live, very angry mutt.

An indication as to why this unfortunate couple are stuck in this nightmarish predicament lies in an event three years before, when Tobias and Elin had taken their young daughter Maja (Katarina Jacobson) on vacation.

The outing is a birthday treat for Maya as she is celebrating her eighth birthday the following day. Her carefully wrapped present is a musical box she had taken a fancy to which, tellingly, plays the tinkly tune of the Swedish folk song, ‘Koko Di, Koko Da’ while rotating the brightly painted images of Mog, Sampo, Cherry and dog.

As the family sit at a restaurant, all sporting face-paint which portrays them as rabbits, presumably just for fun, their meal is interrupted by a pair of performers (Stine Bruun and Martin Knudsen) whose corny and somewhat grotesque clowning is the first element that puts everyone on edge.

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The mood is further disturbed as mum Elin begins to feel ill and emerges from the restaurant bathroom having lost most of her lunch and with a discoloured and rapidly swelling face. It transpires that she has had a severe allergic reaction to some bad shellfish and must spend the night in hospital.

Elin recovers well, but, next morning, as the parents sing a happy birthday song to their small daughter sleeping in the next hospital bed, they discover that the child has had a delayed reaction to the poisonous seafood, and has tragically died in her sleep.

We then jump forward three years to a damaged, grieving Tobias and Elin, who are heading to the woods for a camping trip which is their first vacation since their bereavement.

Writer-director Johannes Nyholm’s film is a surreal and savage fairy tale dealing with grief - a horror-show accompanied by an irresistibly catchy nursery-rhyme tune and where the fantasy characters of Mog, Sampo, Cherry and dog become agents of pitiless suffering and guilt.

The film is suffused with dread and anxiety, from Elin’s silent rages at Tobias for trivial irritations, to the relentless buzzing of the mosquito trapped in their tent which comes to mark the beginning of each time-loop of brutality.

Unlike other films where time repeats itself, these encounters manifest themselves as terrifying dreams and the couple fail to properly remember or learn from what happens from one episode to the next, even as the attacks become increasingly violent and humiliating.

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Our discomfort at their repeated sufferings grows as we wonder what it will take to let them escape their merry-go-round of fear – must they confront these terrifying physical manifestations of their trauma? Shall they again find strength in their relationship and unite to alleviate their torment?

The unease takes many forms – there are unexplained sudden shifts of season and weather, sun, fog, snow; the humiliating vulnerability of the victims during the attacks, Elin with her pants down in mid-pee in the bushes, Tobias cowering wearing only his Y-fronts; the nasty taunts that come from Mog and his obscene orders to the vicious attack dog.

However, Koko-di Koko-da's most revealing scenes consist of two shadow puppet shows involving a family of bunnies which play out the parents' heart-breaking story in a mute drama (and where the bunny face paint early in the film is the connecting factor). The red-velvet-curtained puppet show put me in mind of David Lynch while some of the most lewd and repulsive elements are reminiscent of Lars von Trier.

As the film travels into increasingly uneasy territory the chill of the environment, married with the chilling imagery of co-cinematographers Johan Lundborg and Tobias Hoiem-Flyckt, is augmented by stark, discomforting sound design by Gustaf Berger and Jacques Pedersen.

Nyholm’s conceit is pretty grim - it seems that life is absurd and messy, that death pursues us and is likely to cruelly prey on us when we are most vulnerable. At least one redeeming factor is that Elin and Tobias eventually do turn to each other in their fight for survival. The other message of the film may be - never follow a stray cat you find in the woods.


Movie: 3 Star Rating Koko Di Koko Da Poster Small

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About The Author
Ren Zelen
Staff Reviewer - UK
REN ZELEN is a writer, movie critic, reviewer, academic editor, pop-culture junkie and Sandra Bullock lookalike. Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘THE HATHOR DIARIES’ is available on Amazon in the UK and USA and worldwide.
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