CINEMA REVIEW: Yemi Morafa’s ‘Something Wicked’ doesn’t hit the mark

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Ireti Doyle in ‘Something Wicked’

The highly anticipated psychological drama produced by Okey Uzoeshi and Isioma Osaje, and directed by Yemi Morafa, Something Wicked tells a story of the Gatta family.

We gather from conversations that the father is dead but left a house for his family. The mother, Hauwa (Iretiola Doyle) owns a startup with a younger friend, Claudia (Adesua Etomi), and needs a loan of about twenty million naira to keep it afloat. Another thing she badly needs is for her neighbor Clarissa (Bisola Aiyeola) to stop blocking her driveway with her car in her drunken state.

Hauwa has three children, Ali or Daniel (Gabriel Afolayan), Amira or Becca (Beverly Naya) and Jumai or Esther or Baby (Ivie Okujaye), who is hearing-and-speech impaired.

She gets a knock on her door in the middle of a rainy night and it turns out to be her nephew, Abel (Okey Uzoeshi). He has come to live with her, following the passing of both his parents in Northern Nigeria. Abel is in his late twenties, so it comes off a little strange that he still needs to be dependent both on his parents and on a distant aunt.

So Abel comes and lives with them and strange disappearances and deaths begin to take place that attract the local investigative unit. These occurrences are coincidentally centred around Hauwa and so she seems to be under a lot of scrutiny.

The movie seems to wait with us for its big reveal in the end, and we find, as we already have guessed, that Abel is a psychopath and responsible for every evil.

A scene from ‘Something Wicked’

Something Wicked is different from what we are used to in Nollywood, yet predictable. The patterns are so familiar we know them by heart. Much like The Guest, the mystery visitor is welcomed with both arms and then turns out to be a killer for the most flimsy reasons.

Here, Abel’s reason is an obsession with Amira which is only indicated by him stroking a picture of her for not more than three seconds, and him sniffing her thong about the same time. His malevolence is dropped on us without prior warning and with no real reasons as to why he would go to such great lengths for an obsession he never really shows.

There are things that make Something Wicked a lot of fun. One is Ali’s characteristic finger sign which automatically cracks you up. Another is Jumai’s carefree-ness, the way she is just adorable with her sign language, and another is Claudia’s sassy sense of humour, which is, by a mile, the best performance in this film.

When Abel says ‘Aunty…good morning’ at the door, it makes you laugh and gives you chills at the same time. That it is repeated gives it an even better effect. Oh, and there is Hammed (Emem Ufot), whose pronunciation of his name is met with cackles from the audience every time.

Beverly Naya and Gabriel Afolayan

On the downside, Something Wicked takes too long to begin. 20 minutes into it, you cannot exactly grasp what it is trying to say; whether the focus is on the business and twenty million naira, or on Abel and his blue eyes, or on Ali’s middle finger, or on Clarissa’s drug/alcohol addiction.

It is tiring to follow, but for Adesua’s brilliant humour that holds it together. Many parts of this film come off as unnecessary, like the almost two-minute scene of Hauwa in her car thinking, or the man whose identity is unknown who stands outside shaking his head when Ali comes home late. Or Omowumi Dada as Vivian, Ali’s gothic girlfriend, even more as they try to rope her car into the mix; the accident that knocked Oscar (Timini Egbuson) down would have happened with or without her car. Or an attempt to explain Beverly Naya’s different accent as her being born in the UK (any great actor should be able to change their accents to suit a film, no need for the excuses).

I think the producers tried too hard to convince us the family is Hausa. It’s a good thing Ireti Doyle is a natural, and manages to make most of the Hausa-speaking seem unintentional. We can’t say the same for others.

Cast of ‘Something Wicked’

Claudia peeping in front of the house at night raises our eyebrows. Wasn’t she coming to see Abel? Why then was she peeping, and what is so mysterious about a thong that she stood there staring at it like she had seen snow in harmattan?

The director seems drawn to peeps as Abel also peeps as Jumai’s teacher argues with her when he should be standing beside her seeing it was he who brought her to school. Jumai peeps at Abel, Abel peeps at Amira and Ali, everyone peeps at some point.

Ali’s entrance to rescue his sister seems jarring and premeditated. He rushes in and says “What’s happening here?” with a punch, as though he already knew all about it. Amira figures out who ran Oscar over too quickly as well.

Adesua Etomi in ‘Something Wicked’

While it does good to create a few goosebumps, Something Wicked creates holes as well. It gets worse when we find that everything that happened, including the things that don’t involve Hauwa, things she knows next to nothing about, like her sister Safiya’s (Keira Hewatch) workouts far away in the US, are all one bad dream of hers. No. It doesn’t work. It tries, but doesn’t.

The picture and sound quality are topnotch, the acting is generally good and the final moments pop the eyes.


This post first appeared on TNS.

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