Like other celebrities turning to TikTok to reclaim some semblance of relevance in a world altered by coronavirus, Toni Tones has been quite a revelation. Her foray into this digital space isn’t so much about churn or volume, but about style and artistic flourishes. The actress has jumped on trends like #FlipTheSwitchChallenge, soundly executed with her mother, soaking in the mannerisms and tics of a Nigerian cleric and comically teaming up with Don Jazzy, who has unravelled as a comedy bombshell himself.
Interestingly, Toni has expanded her TikTik comedy universe into embracing elements of horror. Let’s start with the video where she’s wearing a bathrobe and surprised to find an ominous notice saying she will die. The notice is written in bad grammar which she fixes without hesitation, only for it to reveal her impending death with chilling clarity. She wails, something caught between mock exaggeration and black comedy. It’s a fine, sinister piece of digital theater. All the while, The X-Files theme song plays in the background.
When your priorities are weird…😂 pic.twitter.com/UKPWoF34Xa
— Toni Tones (@iamTONITONES) June 12, 2020
This isn’t a random selection. The X-Files is one of television’s greatest purveyor of sci-fi and supernatural horror, and Toni using its haunting theme song tonally complements the video. The one with her dog Gigi is really my favourite. Toni is playing with another dog outside of her house, then looks up to see Gigi peering down through the window before disappearing out of view. It’s a picture of malice from Gigi, of quietly disturbing canine disapproval.
When your dog 🐕 sees you petting another dog 🐩….. pic.twitter.com/9FXufOUApX
— Toni Tones (@iamTONITONES) May 26, 2020
More aptly, the video marinates in the creepy makeover of Luniz’s I Got 5 on It, used as a soundtrack in Jordan Peele’s 2019 horror movie Us. Have I said that the dog Toni is playing with looks like Gigi? Here’s another: Toni twisting the opening theme of Avatar: The Last Airbender – earth, water, air, fire – into dreadful options of death which her boyfriend has to choose from if she finds out that he wants to leave her. This direction plays into the trope of the jilted lover, leaning into the dark impulses that propels them to be harmful and vindictive. We have seen this in many a horror movie and psychological thrillers.
Toni making this kind of horror-tinged content might just be a coincidence. This isn’t to say that she isn’t aware of conceptualizing these ideas and making them work. All through her TikTok videos though, there isn’t a unifying aesthetic, but it has allowed her room to play as oddball characters since dazzling fans and critics with her role in 2018’s King of Boys. Her acting appearances before that movie had seemed nebulous, with other creative stakes in music and photography that didn’t resonantly bind her to a particular art form.
With seemingly more mileage from her path in Nollywood, Toni starring in a horror movie won’t be such a bad idea.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies, anime and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.