‘Dark October’ Is A Not-So-Subtle Dive into the Dark Half of Humanity
Reopening old wounds is never a pretty affair, especially in a country like Nigeria. Linda Ikeji’s Dark October ignores this warning by taking the bold step to veraciously do just that.
Despite the film coming eleven years too late, the themes it churns out seem ever-present and ubiquitous. And while some of us thought we knew the backstory, trust me, we weren’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster.
Written and produced by Linda Ikeji, with Toka McBaror behind the camera, Dark October portrays the true, uncut nature of man through his raw and uncultured dispensation of justice, otherwise known as “jungle justice”. It does this by reliving the true tragic tale of four students at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), colloquially known as the “Aluu 4”. If there was ever a real-life illustration of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, it would be the fate of these students who were wrongfully lynched by an angry mob on 5 October 2012 after being mistaken for robbers.
The incident, which was captured on camera, shook the nation and the world (and rightly so), revealing the consequence of a society that throws law and order to the wind to act as judge, jury, and executioner.
Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding the film’s production –particularly that of Linda Ikeji not getting the victims’ family’s OK before greenlighting it– it does a fantastic job of bringing viewers’ attention to the widely unaddressed question of jungle justice which is still prevalent despite being illegal in Nigeria. Director Toka McBaror, fresh from The Takers (2021) and Underbelly (2022), tries his best at the helm to deliver relivable moments worthy of a room or two in our hearts with the resources at his disposal.
But that’s just about it. Bar some bright spots, the movie’s other elements were bland at best.
The plot development was underdeveloped and mediocre, as was the acting. At some point, it felt like it would do the movie much good if it could quickly catapult itself to the climax. The actors, although understandably young and new, delivered some cringeworthy performances and were “okay” at best. Unfortunately, audiences hope for good actors, not “okay” ones. They were not helped by the long, drawn-out scenes of cheeky dialogue that seemed to have little bearing on the movie’s main premise. Speaking of dialogues, they did little to reflect how normal ordinary Nigerian males of that age and setting converse; except for Tamuno’s (Kelechuwku Oriaku) lines which were safe from “Americanization”.
Amidst all the doom and gloom painted in the above paragraph, it would be a farce to say that the movie didn’t have some positives. It did. Many even.
The production and design team succeeded in inducing the nostalgia of the 2010s with the blackberries and flip phones. The cinematography may be wanting on several occasions; however, it was commendable considering that it worked where it needed to –the shots of the boys’ bloodied bodies being dragged through the community is sure to emotionally hold viewers’ hostage. Likewise, the special effects, while not Hollywood-esque, do the job just fine.
Moreover, the themes, apart from the central and obvious ones, were subtly dished out in a manner too potent to ignore. Nigerian parents’ worry about extra-curricular activities or anything not school-related and the ignorance of youths towards the potential drawbacks of their actions are a few worthy mentions. The call to action at the end was the crowning moment after more than 100 minutes of emotional upheavals.
For all its flaws, Dark October is a movie that is worth your time. Before going ahead to watch it, you must understand that Dark October was never made to be entertaining –so that you don’t make the mistake some viewers did of heightening their expectations. It set out a goal and achieved it. Sadly, the brightest spots in the movie were the darkest parts of the event it tried to recount. It is a good movie if you want an insight into the tragic demise of the Aluu 4.
Release date: February 3, 2023
Run-time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Toka McBaror
Cast: Chuks Joseph, Munachi Okpara, Kelechukwu Oriaku, Kem-Ajieh Ikechukwu, Chibie Johnny, Boman Bognet, Chika Okpala and Oge Gabriel.