Okora: The Prelude


Directed by: ,
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPhmbC4LUVE[/youtube]

‘Hey David’ says the lovely Horror Cult Films web-mistress (who I’m in no way sucking up to). ‘You able to attend a premier of Okora The Prelude next week?’ Being a fan of going anywhere I can feel important by calling myself press, I immediately responded ‘yeah’. Few minutes later I did a Google search to find out just what the hell this movie was anyway. My expectations were immediately lowered when I read about a low budget indie movie from first time movie makers (Lyston Laurence and Lexx James, who I know now to be very accomplished) boasting the ambition of a Hollywood blockbuster but the budget of a family super 8. Coupled with themes that appeared heavily religious and a superhero origin narrative, I was not immediately enthusiastic about the film’s chances. However, from the movie knowledge communicated by the crew (an interview is soon to follow) and the opening seconds of the lush introduction, it was clear such concerns were misplaced.

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Starting in a greenery-dense and beautifully realised dreamscape, viewers are promptly brought up to speed with the project’s mythology. This realm we’re seeing is presently subject to a conflict, with threat looming from Lucifer and six other mythical Gods. The titular Okora is an energy source that can be exploited by these antagonists to devastating consequence. However a prophecy tells of seven descendants of this realm that are infected by the power of sin (the deadly ones of course), who can combat this threat. Granted it’s not the most original concept, but as a quest narrative it’s refreshing to see the heroes picked for their transgressions rather than their virtues. Leaving the simple but striking computer generated gardens we’re plunged into the vast metropolis of London, where the fabled league are living. The cinematography around the city really captures its scale, vibrancy and busyness, more than justifying its role as a backdrop to the ultimate war. On these streets enter Tahani, an exile from the realm who seeks to unite these beings and rescue the heavenly lands. Now you’d be right to suggest this sounds well outside the scope of a standard short, and indeed it is. Okora The Prelude is not a film in itself, but rather it was written to act as an introduction to the project which can both generate interest and hone the skills of the creative team. As a 30 minute showcase, this extract shows the sinners being banded together to prepare viewers for a possible next installment.

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Above I mentioned that this film was made on a low budget. But you’d never now this by looking at it. Every shot looks well polished, with the same kind of gloss you’d expect from a professional production. There’s none of the mucky grainy visuals or wonky sounds that so often let down independent cinema. Visually Okora’s directors are a revelation. Each suburban street or estate location is mined for its potential, and some sequences show a great visual imagination. One particularly memorable scene sees an initially normal bath turn to sickly chunky soup of food and gloop whilst a horror sequence towards the end had members of the audience visually shaken. The acting from the young cast is confident too, giving each character a distinctive identity and attitude which is played without the cocky swagger we’re used to from youth dramas. This makes the scenes where the ensemble cast meet feel organic and ensures we’re invested in the journey.

 

Yet the journey itself is the film’s only significant weakness. Or to be more specific, the format chosen to document it does it a disservice. In choosing to make the plot’s opening section into a short, the filmmakers are able to capture their big concept in a manageable chunk that can act as a calling card. The problem is that if Okora were a two hour movie then the first hour or so of content is being squished into something half that length. With a lot of characters appearing here, and much lore to delve through, this short simply does far too much in too little a space of time. Each character is reduced to a few traits so as to establish them as quickly as possible. This is a creative decision I can completely understand, but since each part is representative of an individual sin then it’s problematic to see them reduced to the gluttonous one, the vain one and so on. Furthermore, since there is such a big cast to introduce in a relatively brief period then the dialogue becomes mostly functional too, with each line having a clear purpose in advancing the story rather than taking it at a manageable pace. This means we see very little surprise when these characters are found by Tahani and told of an importance that goes way beyond the niche they’ve carved for themselves. Still, the directors have assured me that The Prelude is better viewed as a giant trailer than a short per se, and given this approach then the speed with which characters adapt to their visits is understandable. But it does mean that when the movie ends we have a great sense of the characters’ roles in the plot but not who they are and their internal logic beyond the vice they’ve been allocated. This may work against the makers when trying to distribute this short to festivals or other outlets, since it means the film simply doesn’t feel finished. If that happens it’d be a shame. Because make no mistake, while The Prelude is a very ambitious project it’s definitely not a naive one. The crew can match their talk with their walk, and there is a lot of potential to it.

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Typically this is where a reviewer would wind up and leave a star rating. I’m not going to do so here, as this is more a statement of intent than a movie in its own right. Since the aim is to convince people the team are one to watch then they’ve succeeded here despite the severe constraints of their chosen format, given the idea they’re sharing. Now hopefully the right people watch this and appreciate the potential so we can see the rest!

About david.s.smith 418 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

2 Comments

  1. Sounds like a film that’s right up my street! Would love to see this come to light.
    Here’s to hoping that it gets picked up by the right people so we get to see it!

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