Psychological horror Koko-di Koko-da is a genre-bending, adult riff on a Swedish nursery rhyme, directed by Johannes Nyholm.
Two in a Tentby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
If Groundhog Day had been remade by Michael Haneke, it might feel like Koko-di Koko-da. The title is the refrain of a Swedish nursery rhyme, played on an illustrated musical box and reprised continually to spine-tingling, creepy effect.
Tobias (Leif Edlund) and Elin (Ylva Gallon) are a couple trying unsuccessfully to deal with overwhelming grief after a personal tragedy. We first see them with happy, painted faces as the ‘bunny family’, in settings coloured candy pink.
But three years later, grief has corroded their relationship.They set off on a camping holiday. because, well, nothing makes any difference. They argue about where to stop on the road, so Tobias angrily pitches their tent in the dark in a lonely clearing in a forest.
When Elin wakes up in the early morning and leaves the tent to pee, she and then Tobias are sadistically attacked by a bizarre psychopathic trio: a nattily dressed master of ceremonies (Peter Belli), a brutal giant (Morad Baloo Khatchadorian), a strange tall woman (Brandy Litmanen) and a savage, bloodthirsty dog. It looks fatal. And then – spoiler alert – they wake up and it happens all over again the next morning, but with a new twist. And again and again, a recurring nightmare that changes slightly every time. Like the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day, Tobias remembers when he wakes up but Elin doesn’t.
Koko-di Koko-da is horrific. Knowing what will happen, it’s almost unbearable seeing the couple almost escape so many times. Writer and director Johannes Nyholm (The Giant, an animator with an idiosyncratic imagination, changes to strange shadow puppet rabbit silhouettes behind a curtain to tell some of the most emotionally intense parts of the story. He creates a hallucinatory, surreal, unsettling world, whose visual images imprint themselves like fireworks. Underneath the unremitting tension and terror is the question, can Tobias and Elin finally confront their grief and move on?
Koko-di Koko-da screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released on 7 September exclusively on BFI Player with a special introduction by film critic Mark Kermode available from 11 September. The film is also released on Blu-ray and digital on 7 September.