This could be the worst Groundhog’s Day camping trip ever. Yet, as bad as it is for Tobias and Elin to be repeatedly brutalized and murdered by a sadistic band of sideshow performers, the grieving couple’s not-so-passive, more-often-aggressive mutual resentment and hostility is probably harder to watch. Time loops reach their maximum level of uncomfortableness in Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di, Koko-da, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.
Elin and Tobias were once happily married—until the unexpected, freak death of their daughter Maja. Three years later, they are still together, but definitely not happily so. This ill-considered camping trip was supposed to be a chance to heal their marriage, but the constant arguing and recriminations suggest it is too late. Suddenly, a creepy ringmaster-like character in a white suit (the credits call him “Mog”), a strong man, a psycho woman, and their rabid dog beat, bite, and kill Elin when she steps out of the tent for a nature call, before moving on to Tobias. Then Tobias wakes up from the nightmare, minutes before the attack, knowing full well it is about to happen again—and again.
Koko-di, Koko-da (which takes its title from the unsettling earworm refrain Mog sings) is a dark, uncompromising film, but beneath the surface cruelty, there is a deep, humanistic empathy for everyone who has endured heartbreaking trauma. Any parent would much rather endure the brutality of the sideshow gang, rather than lose a child.
That still doesn’t necessarily make some of its scenes any easier to watch. Nevertheless, Nyholm has an extraordinarily keen eye for visuals, especially the two expressionistic interludes featuring paper cut-out puppetry. Clearly, this is nothing like your typical killers-in-the-woods horror movie. In fact, it is debatable whether Koko-di, Koko-da, really is a horror movie, even though it is often quite horrific.
It is hard to say whether Koko-di, Koko-da is for dog lovers or cat people. The sideshow killers’ dog is indeed an active participant in the violence, but there is also a sinister white cat, who acts as a harbinger to their attacks. Indeed, this is not a film for mainstream audiences, but there is a point to it all—a really sharp, cutting point. Recommended for admirers of challenging, Lynchian-style nightmare cinema, Koko-di, Koko-da starts streaming tomorrow (3/18), on Shudder.