Sunday, December 18, 2011

A New Vampire in Town: Exclusive

Sick of the same old bloodsuckers? The sophisticated Draculas, the glittery and romantic Twilights, the schizophrenic Angels, the leather-clad denizons of the Underworld? Well, director Jordan Harland is preparing something new, in a feature based not on the usual European and post-European vampire lore, but on a lesser-known tradition that has haunted Africa for generations: the Tokoloshe (or Tikoloshe).

According to, the Tokoloshe, which haunts the Xhosa people of Lisotho and the southernmost African plains, is more of a psychic than blood-based vampire, feeding off the life-force of its victims -- though the whole hematic/sanguinary tradition is itself an analog for the spiritual draining of the life-energies of a person, blood being traditionally seen as the carrier of life (hence the use of such designations for blood as "life-blood" and "vital fluid" -- and of course the centrality of blood in the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist.)

Like the vampires of Joss Whedon's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the Tokoloshe is part demon, harking back to the origins of the vampire, when it was less the victim of a sort of semi-romantic, immortalising genetic infection and more a possessed corpse.

In fact, the Tokoloshe has little of post-Stoker romance to it. describes it as looking like a baboon:
It’s described as short, bulky, and has a high forehead and balding head. It walks around during night or day swinging its long arms like a monkey. But it has many powers and can shapeshift if it chooses to. It can take human form, which will make it look almost normal [though] some of its monkey-like traits will still show. It may also take the form of a big black bird-like creature with a skull head so that it can fly over villages in search of victims.
They also tend to be controlled by a sorcerer.

Meanwhile, like the European vampire (especially as recreated by Hollywood and popular fiction), the Tokoloshe has a voracious sexual appetite... though as depicted in the form of the traditional puppet pictured below, I don't like their chances of actually attracting even the most desperate member of the opposite sex, Bella included:

How much of this will enter into Harland's film, I don't know, as the traditions vary and cinema is notorious in freely adapting legendary tales according to the creators' own agendas. But from the trailers, Blood Tokoloshe: Dawn of the Beast (South Africa-2012; dir. Jordan Harland) certainly isn't sticking to the currently popular vision of vampires as perpetrated by the Paranormal Romance literary subgenre and such cinematic blockbusters as the Twilight franchise -- except, perhaps, in terms of the titular creature's sexual proclivities.

Tag-line: Under Your Bed, Waiting to be fed.

Strange attacks plague the township’s women, leaving the town leaders at a loss to defend them. At the same time Mthnuzi, a shrewd businessman,is becoming wealthier and more popular with the ladies – something is amiss. The local reverend, Simon Nkosi, learns that Mthunzi is controlling a Tokoloshe to fulfil his greedy desires. In his greed he breaks a golden rule of maintaining control over the beast and it goes on a rampage. Now its thirst for blood is strong and comes after Mthunzi’s women, saving the one he loves for last. Together with Reverend Simon they must take on a mythical beast that has never been defeated, to try and save.

I particularly liked this visual allusion to  the "original" vampire movie, F.W. Murnau's silent classic, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), based on Bram Stoker's Dracula.

compared to this iconic moment from Nosferatu:

Blood Tokoloshe: Dawn of the Beast is currently in development, with the above trailer filmed as a showcase. The full script is now complete and plans are that shooting will begin in early January. Below is a clay mock-up of the monster itself. From this basis, a latex mask will be made.

Check out this mini-doco Harland made from his script development research into Tokoloshe lore, which took place in Orange Farm, a small village 50 kms south of Johannesburg.

When completed, this film could provide a very welcome re-vitalisation of the vampire in cinema. I look forward to seeing the result.

Gallery of Stills:

Sources: Jordan Harland via Avery Guerra; Facebook page;


Pascal said...

This is simply the best blog article I have ever had written about a film I'm producing. Can I get your details and possibly quote you in our next press release? Pascal Schmitz, Producer for "Blood Tokoloshe"

Undead Brainspasm said...

Pascal, you've very welcome to refer to and quote from this article. My name is Robert Hood and I'm the owner and writer for this blog and the connected site Undead Backbrain. Avery Guerra is my "newshound" -- he's brilliant at seeking out new films and making contact with filmmakers. I'm glad you liked the article. The film looks like it has great potential.

Undead Brainspasm said...

Also, Pascal, feel free to email me directly on


Pascal said...

We put you down as one of our partners on the Indiegogo campaign. Check it out at and let me know if that's cool

Undead Brainspasm said...

Pascal, that's certainly cool. Thanks for doing that.