By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Peter Belli, Leif Edlund and Ylva Gallon
Written and Directed by Johannes Nyholm
When it comes to camping, the list of what to fear is far longer than the list of what not to fear. Escape from modernity and the anxieties of city life comes at the risk of hypothermia, any variety of animal and insect interaction, not to mention starvation and dehydration. Horror has long proclaimed the perils of the great outdoors, but KOKO-DI KOKO-DA adds twists and depth to the premise.
Taking its title from a Swedish children’s song, KOKO-DI KOKO-DA wastes no time in asserting itself as a dark and unkind film by showing how terribly wrong a family vacation can go. Mere moments after having to process an unspeakable loss, we are whisked away on yet another trip with a young married couple. Trying their best to remain civil on what appears to be a camping trip to reignite their relationship, the man and woman barely go a minute without arguing or snapping at one another. In the woods, however, the sudden appearance of three violent strangers makes it clear that their lover’s bickering will be the least of their problems.
KOKO-DI KOKO-DA could be summarized from there as series of brutal vignettes, but that would ignore the incredible emotional canvas the film uses to expand upon its themes of grief and personal torment. Like so many of the very best horror movies, this is not really a film about what it is superficially about. Sure, it is a little bit about the creepiness of camping, but beneath that surface it explores the primal reasons we are afraid of nature and of strangers. It is the lack of predictability and the lack of comfort in the great outdoors that is mirrored within a psychology trying to repair itself through painful loss that pairs so well together within the story’s structure. It is about the mental anguish and inescapable torment we put ourselves through. To have that message shine through a film that not only uses a unique narrative structure, but it constantly moving forward and dodging mayhem and bloody villains is a cathartic viewing experience.
And it is this experience of watching KOKO-DI KOKO-DA that makes it such a joy for those who are drawn to the darker side of humanity and psychology. It is not concerned with creating a cinematic experience that woos the audience into a false sense of the status quo or of an idyllic family. It hits the ground running by slapping you in the face and then shoving your nose in the dirt. Perhaps most thrilling of all is its asserted lack of concern for the audience means that nearly anything can happen at nearly any moment. Predictability is quite a useful cinematic tool, but director Johannes Nyholm leaves it in his toolbox this time.
KOKO-DI KOKO-DA might not be a favorite of horror fans looking for cool kills, but for those who want to feel every last drop of blood as they watch people bleed, it is incredible.