Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Growing up in Trinidad my mother would tell us stories of jumbies (spirits) and local folklore creatures like the soucouyant (a vampiric woman who could shed her skin and turn into a ball of fire), the douen (unbaptised children that returned as mischievous spirits with backwards feet), and the lagahoo (a werewolf-like creature that dragged chains). With a rich folklore and penchant for storytelling Trinis are talented a spinning a spooky yarn. And so it should be no surprise that this talent also translates to the medium of film.
This was very apparent with some of the Trinidad and Tobago selections in the 2021 Film and Folklore Festival. For today’s article I will be reviewing three of the films, The Hike, The Lagahoo, and The Unseen. Let’s get to it.
I saw this FIXERFilm Studios’ film back in 2019 for the inaugural Film and Folklore Festival. I was impressed by it then and that remains the case. It is about a young couple who get lost on a hike and have to contend with supernatural forces. The short film stars Renaldo “Red” Frederick (Flying the Coup, Girlfriends’ Getaway, Unfinished Sentences, Pan! Our Music Odyssey), Keston Dick (Flying the Coup, Moko Jumbie) and Jiselle Huggins in her début performance. It was written by festival co-founder Leslie Ann Wills-Caton and directed by co-founder Annisia Cadogan.
“Atmospheric” is the best word I can use to describe The Hike. There is an unnerving tension that builds throughout and continues all the way up to the shocking climax. The leads all deliver solid, believable performances and I did find myself actually caring if this poor couple made it out of this forest alive. I can’t say that for every horror film I’ve seen, local or otherwise. I won’t go into any more plot details as I am keeping things spoiler-free, but I will say The Hike is one spooky good time.
Of all the local folklore creatures I’ve always found the lagahoo to be one of the coolest. I call it “werewolf-like” because it is not a man changing into a beast but it is a human-like wolf beast. So while he looks like a werewolf he’s not an actual lycanthrope. But he is still a beastly monster and his whole deal of dragging around chains is perfect horror fodder.
And this seemed to be the thinking of The Lagahoo director Riyadh Rahaman. The plot of the short film, which premiered at the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, is simple: a young man is walking home late at night and hears the sound of chains following him. Is it a prank or is it the legendary lagahoo? Spoiler alert: It’s a lagahoo! The creature remains mostly hidden in the darkness and while it is clearly a costume there is still something very freaky about it. Yikes!
In just eight minutes the young director, who also stars in the film, delivers one creepy experience with a horrific ending. I really need to get a full feature with this one. And maybe it could incorporate the myth of rubbing the eye cold of a dog around your eye and looking through a keyhole to see a lagahoo. Not that I’ve tried it myself. Stop looking at me like that.
Supernatural forces and lagahoos are scary, but you know what else is scary? The unknown. And that is the hook of The Unseen. The unknown? The Unseen? I’m sensing a pattern here. Moving on. The horror short was written and directed by Dominic Koo and stars Jovon Browne (Pendulum) as a photographer who loses his eyesight under mysterious circumstances. As he attempts to adjust to his new disability he is haunted by a strange entity.
I really enjoyed this one. Browne is a capable and sympathetic lead and is supported well by Tishanna Williams as his caring wife Andrea. The plot has a great slow burn tension and some commendable effects work. And the design of the entity is unlike anything I have ever seen (no pun intended). And man, it is weird and terrifying. So you if want to see a slice of horror then you need to see The Unseen (okay, pun intended here).
If you’d like to watch these films for yourself The Hike and The Lagahoo are available on the Digicel PlayGo app until June 14. The Hike is also available on demand at vimeo.com. The Unseen can be seen (Get it? You get it) on YouTube as part of the Film and Folklore Festival opening night video (time code 14.03-28.21).
And you can check out more Trinidad and Tobago horror films below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.