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“Dark October” Review: Is October Cursed?

“Dark October” Review: Is October Cursed?

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Dark October is a haunting depiction of man’s true inhumanity to man. Although fictional, the movie lets us all relive the moments as though we were there…

By Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo

Would it be considered an exaggeration to say that Dark October is the saddest thing you will see in Netflix’s “New & Hot” category? Linda Ikeji, a lifestyle and entertainment blogger, makes her directorial debut with a recount of a true-life event, one that shook Port Harcourt and the entire country as a whole. Young, innocent bloodshed, it is a story that still gives me chills decades later. After being accused of a theft that never happened, four students are lynched by an angry, mindlessly misinformed mob.

Dark October recounts the events of what I and many others know and remember as the “Aluu 4,” a story of four young students who were mistaken for robbers and became victims of an angry mob, hence victims of jungle justice. The story of the Aluu 4 is one I hold dear to my heart, not as a firsthand witness but as an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt and a later resident of the Aluu community. Directed by Toka McBaror and produced by Linda Ikeji, the Recount production has become the first official production on Netflix that recounts in detail the events of that October 5, 2012 day.

(Read also: With Dark October, Linda Ikeji makes Stunning Debut with Netflix’s Upcoming Release)

October 5, 2022, marked 10 years since the Aluu 4 lynching. The event claimed the lives of Ugonna Obuzor, Lloyd Toku, Chiadika Biringa, and Tekena Elkanah. And while it may be assumed to be a coincidence, I can’t help but wonder: October again? Coincidentally, the encounters and deaths from the EndSars protest also took place in October. While the Aluu 4 story is heartbreaking every time it is told, there is no denying that Ikeji recounts it in detail in Dark October.

Dark October is a haunting depiction of man’s true inhumanity to man. Although fictional, the movie lets us all relive the moments as though we were there. The school, UNIPORT, is still used as a reference in the film, which was shot in the fictional Aku village. And the victims on-screen, although holding quite a resemblance to the original boys, were played by Chuks Joseph, Munachi Okpara, Kem-Ajieh Ikechukwu, and Kelechukwu Oriaku.

The props and environment truly take us back in time. The use of old Aluu; the hovering bike men, and old model Blackberry phones provide a clear reminder of what life was like in Aluu, Rivers State, in 2012. But all of this reminiscing brings back even more memories of how students’ lives were back then. But, of course, students will still be students. And their actions are glaring and easily likeable to the Gen Zs, who, in their moment of abrupt decision-making, fail to imagine a downside to their genius plans.

The naivety of young people is worrisome for their constant disregard for any possible downside to their undermining of scenarios. This gives us reason to think of them as careless, and it causes panic across the screen about the consequences of their poor decisions.

While the countdown on the screen does not really help anyone, the intriguing part of this production is that we all know how it ends. With or without the variants from the original event, the production still engulfs enough to make it relatable to the story. The quartet’s demise is the result of bad timing and misfortune. It is a dark tale that terrifies viewers with every viewing. Maybe knowing the ending isn’t always a good thing. We know there are no happy endings in this case, but in an event full of whos and whys, viewers are eager to see what really happened, even if it is fictionalised.

“There is no reason why anyone should die like that.” These were the words of Gloria During, a friend of the victims of Aluu 4, in an interview with BBC Africa. Jungle justice remains a punishable crime in Nigeria, but unfortunately, the judiciary’s inability to pass these laws into law or fully punish offenders is the reason it is still rampant. And although it does breach Sections 34, 35, and 36 of the Nigerian Constitution, the frustration and inhumanity of people have taken away the rights to a fair hearing from many unjustly killed.

(Read also: One Year After “End SARS” Protest, Police Brutality Still Looms)

Dark October"

Amidst this circulation of what seems like a heartfelt tribute to the boys, the social space, probably out of pre-existent hate or just sincere maudlin, has launched an attack on Ikeji and her crew for their decision to go ahead with this story against their family’s wishes. It’s not out of place to say the lawsuits and court orders against the lifestyle and entertainment blogger in the past years have built her and influenced her smart decision-making.

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Ikeji has clearly stated the discrepancies between the original story and her fictional projection of the event. She also revealed that although the incident is documented for public consumption, her production avoids the personalisation of the story or any unwanted publicity that may arise from reliving the original terms and incidents of the true event. Unless there is any tie between the two, her claims should clear her of all current and possible future lawsuits to this effect.

Sentiments and pain aside, the storyline in Dark October seems half-baked and under-researched. And I wonder: why did the villagers speak Igbo rather than the Ikwerre dialect of Rivers State? While I would usually analyse the lighting, shots, and camera angles, I enjoyed the neophyte-looking production. It kept the originality and made me wonder, “What did you expect from 2012?” The prosthetics, SFX makeup, and effects were all beautifully executed. But sadly, just as Esosa Omo-Usoh rightly stated, “The best part of Dark October was the worst part of the true story that inspired it.” 

Every man is a beast by his own knowledge is the biblical scripture that erupts in my mind when the chants of the mob, “Kill them,” become all we hear. The vile nature of men causes me to doubt their humanity and consciences, and out of insecurity, erect a barrier away from them. The narrator says near the end of the film that “sometimes the madness is never rehearsed, yet it happens.” Dark October exhibits pain, killed dreams, and lost love.

Dark October may not be flawless, but it does educate and advocate the humanity of man against jungle justice. Ikeji’s motive may not be purely non-profit, but Dark October, like any other black history movie, documents and brings into closure hidden events that either challenge or compliment prevailing narratives of the past. And although there has been a fuss of dissatisfaction on Twitter from viewers, one thing should be understood by viewers, “not all movies are meant to be entertaining.”

Rating: 3/5

(Watch Dark October on Netflix)

Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo, a film critic, beautician, and accountant, currently writes from Lagos State, Nigeria. Connect with her on Twitter at @Glowup_by_Bee and on Instagram at @blackgirl_bee.

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