North Bend Film Festival 2019: Koko-Di Koko-Da

Follow the white cat. Stuck inside an insidious Groundhog Day (1993) loop, two roadside campers are in for an unpleasant experience as they lay down camp, get murdered, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. Koko-Di Koko-Da indulges its own darkness, stoking the relentlessness of its feedback loop. The characters do not especially learn. It is not a Bill Murray situation, with incremental improvements suggesting a path forward. Rather, it’s a limbo-esque purgatory where parallel reactions play out differently. The grotesque endings are always the same.

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Koko-Di Koko-Da. Dir. Johannes Nyholm.

A troop of horror ne’er-do-wells stalk the campsite every evening. The ring leader sports a funny circus hat and enjoys a good deal of pomp and circumstance in his routine murder. He will come upon the tent, snip its supports, and see if anyone is revealed as it crumbles flat to the ground. He is always prodding around with his cane, suggesting nothing like good intentions, and seems to be the devilish ring leader incarnate. His friends are not very nice either. There’s a lady dressed as a woman long lost in the woods of just such a horror movie. His henchman is maybe the most disturbing, carrying with him a dead and bloodied hog, which is tossed aside whenever he needs to jump to grotesque action, body-slamming the fallen tent to reveal what’s inside. His partner, a real vicious hound, ends up being the real killer, though, often gnashing through the couple, and is utilized to most disturbing and sexualized effect to attack the young woman.

There was some point where I arrived at an exclamation – what in the name of Babadook (2014) have they created here? It is that kind of semi-psychological horror story. It begins with an off-kilter family vacation where the mom soon takes ill, becoming horribly swollen while eating a pizza pie. They are out for her daughter’s birthday and she is gifted a nice but probably taboo ridden music box that must be at the center of the white cat’s dastardly time looping plan. There is a certain unevenness to Koko-Di Koko-Da then, as it moves along several parts. The opening feels detached from what follows, certainly, and then there are spare animated segments, playing out like shadow puppets outside a tent. Those cast the greatest aspersions that it has been informed as much by its Babadookian roots as its Groundhog elements.

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Koko-Di KoKo-Da. Dir. Johannes Nyholm.

Functionally, Koko-Di Koko-Da is as fun as its name. There is near-unlimited potential left in the Groundhog Day horror movie, as suggested by the greatly underappreciated Happy Death Day franchise. This only begins to stab at the central conceit of how the monotonous looping can create drawn-out dread. It builds and builds here, seeming like every outcome would be worse than the last. It does not offer some comedic relief or any other respite between its hard-coded repetitions, they are a fact of the movie, that must be accepted on its own terms.

6/10

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