Movie Title: The Origin: Madam Koi Koi
Release Date: 7, November, 2023
Director: Jay Franklyn Jituboh
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes (average per part)
Cast: Ireti Doyle, Chioma Akpotha Chukwuka Jude, Martha Ehinome, Nene Aliemeke, Tolulope Odebunmi, Omowunmi Dada, Ejiro Onojaife, Chuks Joseph, Kevin T. Solomon, Temidayo Akinboro, Iremide Adeoye and Racheal Emem Issac.
Most Nigerians who attended boarding school in the 1990s could not sleep at night, sometimes due to the tales whispered in their ears. Unlike moral-driven stories like “The Tortoise and the Hare,” these folklores were more sinister, focusing on scary creatures like the Bush Baby, Madam Koi Koi, and Mr. Cabin. Despite their thrilling effect, these folklores have become a staple of many Nigerian boarding houses.
Imagine the wave of nostalgia when Nigerians heard that Netflix was releasing a two-part film around Mrs Koi Koi, providing a relatively new interpretation of how the creature of the night came to be.
Several Nigerian films boast of horror but need to catch up on the essential elements of what makes a scary film. With a lineup of talented actors, top-tier cinematography, and well-executed special effects, “The Origin Story: Madam Koi Koi” stands out, positioning itself as a contender in the horror genre and a blueprint for producers.
However, in the second half, the film fails to detach itself from horror tropes entirely and becomes anticlimactic, bland, and uninteresting. It also deviates from the popular idea of who Madam Koi Koi is, rewriting her as a monsterlike creature who stomps rather than the ghost of a lady who sends thrills down spines with the clack of her heels.
The year is 1991, and we see a young woman and her daughter, Amanda, driving into Malomo, a small town. Amanda argues with her mother against attending a boarding house. Despite her constant refusal, she quickly settles in, finding comfort in the hands of her new friend/bunkmate. During the first assembly, her new best friend warns her to avoid a group of boys known for treating ladies harshly.
Amanda refuses to believe her until one morning when a girl seen with the boys cries about being raped. Before that morning, at midnight, the girl was invited by Idowu, one of the boys and the person she was dating, to a house outside the school. Upon arriving, she was cornered by the four boys and raped.
Feeling guilty, Idowu follows after her. Unfortunately, a mysterious creature emerges from a red light and kills him.
The rest of the morning, she had everyone, especially Mother Superior, the head of the school, panicked as Idowu was nowhere to be found. News soon reached the school that the dead body of a boy wearing the school’s uniform was located in the forest. Mother Superior, in an attempt to protect the rest of the boys and the reputation of the school, denies the body bearing a resemblance to the school. Fortunately, her lie is accepted as the corpse’s face was disfigured.
The rest of the film’s first half shows Amanda having several visions where she sees the creature emerging from shadows and killing the people around her. Towards the end of part one, we know how the beast came to be; she was raped to death by some men in the village.
Part 2 provides more context. There was a witch trial for a woman some years ago. The injustice against the woman made her spirit wander around town, so when Omo was raped, she used that opportunity to possess her dead body and exact revenge on the city. The security gate man of the school and ex-herbalist Baba Fawole, narrated the story of the monster’s origin.
Alongside two detectives, Baba Fawole sets out to find a solution to banish the monster from the town. Long story short, they realise that to get rid of the beast, they must identify the person whose presence triggered the monster and put their lives on the line.
The cinematography was top-notch. As a Gen-Z would say, “It gave what it was supposed to give.” The camera movements, bright lighting, and even sound sent chills down the spines. The way the cameras tilted as Amanda had her weird dreams added more depth to the story and made it aesthetically pleasing.
Casting was also on point in the film, especially Mother Superior. After watching “The Origin Story: Madam Koi Koi,” it’s hard to picture Ireti Doyle being anything apart from a two-faced nun who would do anything to hold her head high. The actors who played the boys were also convincing in making themselves look like disgusting men/rapists you would want to punch in the face.
Now, let’s talk about those visual effects. The scary scene where Madam Koi Koi emerged was heart-racing; red lights and black fog surrounding her were a good creative choice. The makeup done on the faces and bodies of the corpses was next level. It was the right amount of gore.
A portion of the problem of the film lies in the writing. “The Origin Story: Madam Koi Koi” is divided into two parts; the first part is excellent and offers viewers an element of suspense. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the second part, as it was predictable. The clues and mysteries were on the nose, taking away the joy of trying to figure things out for the viewers. For example, it was apparent that Amanda was the unknown figure that triggered the creature’s arrival. The way Baba even discovered she was the one was effortless, super easy, and barely an inconvenience.
“Madam Koi Koi” also lacked believability. The producers want us to believe that Amanda quickly agreed to be offered as a sacrifice or something, no one talked about Idowu’s disappearance again, the village, in some weird unspoken way, got to know about the rape case that triggered the event, that the death of a couple of a few villagers/rapists was generalised as the imminent death of an entire community. There were exaggerations and several violations of the “show, don’t tell rule.”
Lastly, what happened to Madam Koi Koi? It refers to the creative direction of the character. While it’s understandable that the producers want to put their spin on the folklore, it felt as if they deprived the film of the essence of her name. Stories around Madam Koi Koi have focused on the sound her shoes made. The film deviates by having “Madam Koi Koi” stomp.
7/10. “The Origin: Madam Koi Koi” shows Nollywood producers are finally taking risks exploring horror while sticking to indigenous elements. While it has its shortcomings, grounded in its storyline, the film promises to be a horrific (in a good way) watch.
“The Origin: Madam Koi Koi” is now streaming on Netflix.
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