The Tokoloshe Movie Review

Written by Gabino Iglesias

Released by Uncork'd Entertainment


Directed by Jerome Pikwane
Written by Richard Kunzmann and Jerome Pinkwane
2018, 92 minutes, Not Rated

Petronella Tshuma as Busi
David Minnaar as Ruatomin
Kwande Nkosi as Gracie
Harriet Manamela as Ma Zondi

the tokoloshe 01 the tokoloshe 02


After the whitewashing of La Llorona, I kinda cringed when I learned there was a movie out there about the tokoloshe, an evil creature from Zulu/Xhosa mythology. Luckily, The Tokoloshe was shot in South Africa and features almost as much Zulu as it does English. Now, the film has its shortcomings, but at least whitewashing isn’t one of them; the locations are legit, the actors give it authenticity, and the score makes use of music to reinforce what the language and actors are doing in terms of clearly positioning the film in South Africa.

Busi is a young woman trying to makes ends meet. She is caught between her need to survive in Johannesburg and the darkness she ran away from and which still has her sister trapped. When she lands a job as a cleaner at a hospital, she is forced to deal with harassment from her boss, low wages, and mysterious sounds as well as kids who have a tendency to abandon their area and roam the hospital. Despite all this, she pushes through because she has to save enough money to bring her sister to live with her. One day Busi finds a young girl who thinks she is being followed and hurt by a supernatural force: the tokoloshe. Busi ends up taking the girl home with her, but whatever was after her at the hospital follows them.

the tokoloshe 03 the tokoloshe 04

The Tokoloshe hits a few emotional notes. Horror is only effective when it manages to make us feel empathy for the characters we’re looking at or reading about, and Busi is one of those characters with whom it is easy to connect. Anyone who has had a shitty job and stayed in it because they need the money really bad will easily connect with her and understand why she puts up with her harassing boss. Also, everything I mentioned above works well (actors, locations, and score). Furthermore, the hospital is wonderfully creepy and the movie’s photography is pretty great whenever we’re shown images from the countryside.

the tokoloshe 05 the tokoloshe 06

Besides those high notes, there are several problems that merit mentioning. The first one is that, although the photography has some amazing moments, there are almost as many shots of hallways as there are in Hereditary, which is to say there are at least two dozen too many (hey, at least this one doesn’t feature endless shots of dioramas!). Besides the empty hallways, which add nothing to the narrative, there are a few problems with the plot. I won’t get into much detail here because reviews that deconstruct an entire film in order to point out what is missing are usually boring and no one reads them. Instead, I’ll say that certain things about the monster could have been explored a bit more, the nasty boss could have been used as more than a prop, and a movie shot in South Africa shouldn’t have a magical negro problem, but here we are.

The Tokoloshe is interesting and brings us a mythological creature that hasn’t been fully explored in horror movies yet. It’s also a good movie in terms of showing us what is happening in South African horror and how some of the local folklore is being mined for elements and stories. That said, this isn’t one of those movies you will come back to watching time and again. I just hope the tokoloshe gets a different treatment soon because the figure deserves it. In he meantime, feel free to watch this one and enjoy a bit of mythological horror with a distinctive flavor that hasn’t been watered down by unnecessary whitewashing.

the tokoloshe 07 the tokoloshe 08


Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover

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