Tokoloshe: The Calling is an interminable horror film that slices and dices bits of other horror films, most notably The Shining, into something so technically incoherent that it is nigh unwatchable. I’ve written extensively about my love for low-budget horror — in particular seeing what special spice filmmakers can bring an otherwise difficult and restrained production. Poor sound design, choppy editing and convoluted lore are a small price to pay when a film can invent a cool monster or a novel idea or, at the very least, shoot for the moon. Tokoloshe has plenty of the former and none of the latter, to the point where it is difficult to finish.
It’s a shame, as it’s basically two parallel stories, one involving a writer trying to finish a book in an abandoned hotel with his wife and adopted daughter (a la The Shining) and another one about Dr. Richard (Lloyd Grant O’Connor) pushing a young woman to relive her experience in that haunted space. Haunting stories are promising, but they’re better when they have some cultural reason to exist. Here, Dr. Richard is hunting the Tokoloshe, an evil spirit that can become invisible and which haunts the hotel because it was built on land stolen from the original inhabitants. There is a lot of narration in director / co-writer Richard Green’s film to explain the characters and their relationship to the hotel and its resident monster. It’s difficult to engage with most of it.
Tokoloshe is a menagerie of disconnected thoughts and notions about horror. There are some jump scares, but they’re ruined by the pervasive “spooky score.” Characters enter the film without much introduction, and their actions don’t follow any clear line of emotional coherence. It’s a frustrating watch. The scene of the little girl riding a bike down the hallway, so blatantly riffing from The Shining, happens multiple times for some reason.
I kept with Tokoloshe because I hoped it would redeem itself in some way — an interesting monster, a strong scare, maybe a trick of clever filmmaking. Unfortunately, it never presents anything of the sort. The whole experience is best summed up by the closing caption that states Dr. Richards was never seen again … or, more specifically “Dr. Richard’s (sic) has never been found.” That incorrect possessive apostrophe haunts my impression of the film with more weight than anything in the preceding hour.