“Egun”: Brilliantly Concocted Mix of Collar and Blood That Caps off the Year
Aside from the generic “babalawo” or “winch” tales, the horror genre in Nollywood has remained uncharted waters. And even when ventured into, they rarely captivate and mesmerize like “Egun” does.
Presented by the same studio that brought us the acclaimed “Ile Owo” and “Mama”–both regarded as gems in the Nigerian horror genre – Film Trybe achieves a cinematic hattrick with “Egun.” This immersive narrative unfolds within the confines of a corporate office that receives an anonymous package carrying mysterious and supernatural contents. The storyline intensifies with a chilling phone call, predicting the ominous fate awaiting all who have encountered this enigmatic parcel.
However, “Egun” does not merely stop at the surface horror elements. It slowly peels away the glamor of the white collar to reveal the shadowy corners of the corporate realm. Unafraid to paint the town red with the blood and sins of corporate executives who loot, scoot, and hoot their way into power often at the expense of their subordinates, “Egun” seems to have fun at it.
At the onset, the pandemonium stirred by the “Egun” box instantly grabs your attention, leaving you guessing–with neck-breaking enthusiasm–on its next move. But do not be deceived because, if there were a Nigerian movie embodying the concept of “never let them know your next move,” it would undoubtedly be “Egun.”
Having satisfied our curiosity with barely an hour spent, it goes on to deliver the second-course meal. By this time, we are already acquainted with the moral standings of the characters. Liars, cheaters, blackmailers, and murderers make up the creme of what should be Nigeria’s top investment company.
Their nemesis? A “villain,” a creation of all their scheming and ridicule–a symbol of the oppressed in the corporate offices and society in general.
Gideon Okeke delivers a compelling performance as Obi, a shattered individual on a quest for both vengeance and inner redemption. His pain oozes through the screen, reaching into the audience’s soul so that when he dispenses his version of justice, sympathy for those on the receiving end becomes an alien emotion. In Obi’s eyes, his former workplace is his Gotham, desperately in need of purification, and he assumes the role of a figurative Batman.
However, the film takes an interesting turn along the way. It juxtaposes Obi’s despair, death, and unwavering determination with the elements of hope, life, and fear embodied in another character, Jimmy (Lateef Adedimeji) as if to say, “they’re not so different after all.”
The contrast becomes particularly pronounced during a pep talk in the final third, which feels criminally like the iconic Batman and Joker prison moment in “The Dark Knight.” Such clever interplay of characters adds depth to the narrative, blurring the lines between light and dark, in a way that resonates with the audience.
Lurking just behind all the corporate violence is the survival instinct of humans. As Obi passionately lectures him on the corporate world’s evils, Jimmy’s sole desire is to escape his harrowing predicament and reunite with his family. The options on the table for him to clinch his ultimate prize, entangled with the overarching theme of self-forgiveness and righteousness, steal a page from the SAW franchise.
Upon closer examination, Jimmy’s purpose in the movie appears ambiguous. Is he intended as the emblematic “good egg” in a sea of rotten yolks, a standard symbol of “good versus bad” inserted to alleviate the already pitch-black atmosphere reeking of blood? Or is he a counter-piece in a showglass of self-forgiveness, serving as a lesson on how it–or the lack thereof–can make or mar a man, just like it did Obi?
Whichever it is, Lateef Adedimeji’s impeccable performance lends credence to either perspective. Renowned for his commanding presence on screen, Lateef is the type of actor whose impact may go unnoticed until he graces the screen.
By the conclusion of “Egun,” you are forcefully reminded of why he is regarded as one of the most distinguished actors in Nollywood. His portrayal of Jimmy adds layers to the character’s complexity, leaving the audience captivated and reflecting on the nuances of morality and redemption within the narrative.
“Egun” fuses the horror genre and didacticism into a two-hour tragedy that leaves the audience bloated with satisfaction. Two men, one calabash, and an office building are all it takes for it to deliver.
The constant switch from humor to tragedy, reminiscent of Hollywood storytelling, is as seamless as its switch from present to past. You can almost tell that writers Kayode Kasum and Dare Olaitan and director Carmen Ike Okoro drew a bit of inspiration from “The Belko Experiment,” to contribute to the film’s eerie atmosphere, with the red flashing lights, office setting and stakes not dissimilar to the 2016 blockbuster.
Carmen Ike Okoro maintains an unyielding tempo, ensuring a streamlined flow. Divided chapters serve as a guiding mechanism to walk the viewer through the thought process. This is a wise choice seeing that this strategic technique has the power to compress the perception of time, making a two-hour movie feel as though it was half that—a feat reminiscent of the immersive experience achieved in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021).
The title (translating to “curse” in Yoruba) goes beyond representing the literal embodiment of the charm; it encapsulates the nemesis unwittingly forged by the hands of oppressors. “What is the Nigerian dream”? the movie provocatively asks. Escape? Close. Vengeance on the ruling class? Bullseye.
Ironically–and unfortunately–this thoughtful choice of title could potentially be a drawback. There is a concern that “Egun” might struggle to break free from the stereotypes associated with old Nollywood. One would not put it past the ever-critical Nigerian audience, who are always quick to draw conclusions from the title, synopsis, and poster, to dismiss it as just another generic Nollywood horror, with “juju” and black magic plastered all over.
Hopefully, this is not the case, and the public see “Egun” for what it truly is: a masterpiece worthy of horror-king James Wan’s stamp of approval.
Release Date: November 10, 2023
Runtime: 2 hours
Streaming Service: None Cinematic Release
Director: Carmen Ike Okoro
Cast: Lateef Adedimeji, Gideon Okeke, Veeiye, Femi Jacobs, Olarotimi Fakunle, Ibrahim Yekini, Tomike Adeoye, Uzor Arukwe, Omowunmi Dada, Bolaji Ogunmola, Ejiro Onojaife, and Darasimi Nadi