Koko-Di Koko-Da (Groundhog Day Murder Grief Film by Johannes Nyholm)


When The Babadook exploded in 2014, along came the usual flurry of thinkpieces praising an intelligent horror movie that dealt with the thorny topic of grief. Although labeling this a new development ignores the long history that horror has with bereavement, the recent trend of “elevated horror” films that explicitly address grief is undeniable. Enter Sweden’s Koko-di Koko-da, by erstwhile animator Johannes Nyholm. Despite a familiar setup – a couple loses a child in the first reel, and spends the film mourning both the death and their fractured relationship – the film seeks to distinguish itself from its peers in three ways.


First, it features a dreamlike time-loop structure. While on a camping trip, the protagonists are assaulted and murdered, only to awaken in their tent again, trying different ways to escape the violence they dimly know is coming. Second, the antagonists are a mysterious trio, led by a dapper white-suited old man, whose unexplained nature suggests they are psychic projections rather than real people. The third innovation is a pair of lengthy shadow-puppet sequences punctuating the narrative with an allegorical version of the couple’s story of grief. True to Nyholm’s animation background, these delicate, lilting sequences are the most striking parts of the film. Koko-di Koko-da pulls together disparate elements: bereavement, torture, folklore, puppetry, nightmare logic. Its cheeky antagonist and blasé approach to violence recall Michael Haneke, while the form exploits trendy horror tropes like grief (the aforementioned Babadook, Hereditary) and time loops (Happy Death Day, Blood Punch). This audacious experiment results in a film more of moments than of cohesion. It takes a deft hand to weave these influences together without awkward gearshifts or over-reliance on their referents, and relative newcomer Nyholm isn’t quite up to the task.


Koko-di Koko-da Official Facebook

Written by Cthulen, Dead Dreamer

Kodo-di Koko-da (2020, US)
Johannes Nyholm
3.5 / 5