by Wilfred Okiche
The unprecedented triumph of last year’s money printing behemoth, The Wedding Party at the domestic box office points to one thing, that such a success story lends itself inevitably to not just being studied and observed across all tiers of the filmmaking world, but also being replicated, hopefully for similar results.
So while a section of creatives can take notes and begin to unspool star studded romantic comedies with little thought to story and plot tightening, others can seize upon the collaborative model as filmmaking financing option and set about making stronger feature length films. Something Wicked which opened 17, February falls in the latter category.
Starring an ensemble cast led by Ireti Doyle, Something Wicked is the first product of a collaboration between three houses; Jack of Aces fronted by actor Okey Uzoeshi, talent manager Isioma Osaje’s Agency 106 and director Yemi Morafa’s Film Boiz. Each of this tripod brings some level of talent, skill and production value to the table. Add to this interesting mix, Filmone distribution, backers of The Wedding Party amongst other notable Nollywood releases of late.
Hauwa (Ireti Doyle) is a widowed business woman raising three young adults, a special needs child, inclusive. One of the film’s earliest scenes attempts to delineate the exact relationships between each of the kids, played by the trio of Gabriel Afolayan, Beverly Naya and Ivie Okujaye-Egboh, and why as always, Ms Naya, speaks the way that she does. But it doesn’t really matter though. This is one united, fairly loving family.
Their late, unseen father left them a huge house in an upscale Lagos suburb but Hauwa is struggling with her business and together with her colleague/confidant/ best friend, Claudia (a bubbly Adesua Etomi,) is struggling to put together a proposal that will secure some reprieve via a government grant. If only they spent doing more work than chit chatting, their business may yet see better days.
But this is not a drawback, the lively conversations between Ms Doyle’s uptight, harried mum and Etomi’s potty mouthed fire cracker, provides some of the film’s brightest moments. Etomi displays some deft comic timing here and delivers her lines with relish. With roots in the creative city of Jos, Ireti Doyle easily sells the character of a Hausa speaking matron and gives a convincing, if comfortable performance that switches between Hausa and English languages.
Hauwa gets an added responsibility on her already full plate when a mysterious adult nephew, Abel (Okey Uzoeshi),- robust and not at all like a survivor of the carnage up North,- shows up on her doorstep in the wee hours of the morning and brings with him a rash of unusual developments.
Something Wicked takes its sweet time announcing itself and tries to incorporate as many elements as the producers can manage into a sensible running time. This ultimately does the finished product in.
It starts off slow, with interesting shots that reveal the director’s understanding of stillness, almost a rarity in these parts. Morafa is refreshingly capable of setting up short scenes, like that between Afolayan’s Ali and his faux gothic paramour, Vivian (Omowumi Dada) where nothing particularly happens but achieves a solid level of mood building.
The characters also have interesting quirks that are not necessarily restricted to Ali’s childish predilection for flipping the birdie, Abel’s need to creep up on people and an inquisitive police officer’s grating manner of identifying himself. This shows some level of fine thinking by screenwriter Yemi Adeyemi, working from a story idea by Okey Uzoeshi. And also makes for a much better outing for Morafa than last year’s roughly hewn The Grudge, also starring Ireti Doyle.
The film could have done just fine as a domestic drama, observing upper class Lagos living but Morafa and his writer cannot quite help themselves. They begin to telegraph some creep factor in the first half of the film. Some of it is merely predictable and maybe even laughable. Like when Okujaye-Egboh’s Jumai opens a fridge in search of a drink and closes it in time to be creeped out by Abel’s still form that appears out of nowhere.
Still the film plunders on, introducing some more layers plus extra characters, many of whom add nothing to the eventual resolution. By the time it gets to the final third, Something Wicked has become a full scale horror story and pretty much everyone bites the dust.
Thankfully, the director and screenwriters appreciate the ridiculousness of the non-creative, holes ridden resolution that they have come up with and make an even worse attempt to explain it away but even that is so hackneyed and reductive that the film eventually ends with a sore limp.
At its best, Something Wicked is at least pretty to look at and deploys some nice tricks to make its case. Too bad it doesn’t have much to say.