Revenge is a dish that is served with enough style and imagination in “Salum”, a fast and furious crime-horror-thriller that revolves around mangroves, islands and entrances to the Sine-Salum coastal region of Senegal. A demonic secret haven centered on mercenaries hiding in a strange holiday camp, the second feature of Congolese filmmaker Jean-Luc Herbolot blends freely and spaghetti western, samurai dramas and classic monster movies to tell an exciting story. There is nothing more comparable to “salum” in Senegalese cinema, which is bound to be in high demand on the festival circuit and then has the perfect entertainment value to enjoy a successful commercial life.
Part of a small but growing wave of African genre cinema to attract international exposure, “Salum” marked a winning start for Lakme Studios, formed in 2019 by docker-based companies Herbolot and Pamela Diop, its producers and creative partners. Expectations for the second feature of the costume “Zero” in 2022 are now confirmed.
Based on the promise, he showed off his first feature, “Dealer” (2014), and as producer-director of the 2019 “Sakho and Mangane” (the first Africa-filmed, French-language TV series bought by giant Netflix), Herbult brought confidence and excellence. The most impressive improvement to Visual “Saloum” is the story’s persuasive twist and ability to maintain coherence, as it moves from voice action thriller to moody crime melodrama, spooky folk horror and full-fledged monster movie, then back again.
The first stop in the genre-hopping story is Guinea-Bissau. During the country’s 2003 military coup (described in the mainstream media as bloodless but not explicitly here), Mexican drug lord Felix (Renaud Farah) and a suitcase of gold bullion, the Bangui Hyenas, a trio of tenants with legends, were found in these parts. Fame. Occasional and omniscient voiceover narrators tell us that these guns for rent are rumored to be “magicians” whose feats are said to “arouse child soldiers at night.” The hyenas’ supposedly simple task is to get Felix to Dakar and collect a mountain of cash for their time and trouble.
The leader of the strongest crew is Chaka (Ian Gayle), a handsome, smart and scholarly type. Beside him are tough friends Rafa (Roger Salah) and Midnight (retired telecom technology-actor mentor or starring), a dazzling shock of white dreadlocks and an old man with a mysterious, natural air about him. Strongly loyal and bound by an unbreakable code of respect, these guys find the same kind of antihero audience appealing and appealing.
When the fuel tank of their escape plane makes a leak, the hyenas are forced to land in the Sin-Salum Delta, where the Salum River in Senegal meets the North Atlantic. Our narrator tells us that Sain-Salum is “a holy and secure place” and “the land of myths and cursed kings.” True to form, from the moment the “Salum” wheel takes Hynas and Felix to Baobab Camp, a restless man acquires a horror-like environment, which he long ago remembered as a holiday destination.
A collection of seaside huts and cabins, run by Baobab Omar (Bruno Henry), is an avocado oddle who assigns tasks to his guests every day as a condition of accommodation. Omar hosts a communal dinner where a wide range of topics of conversation include post-colonial North African politics and the remarks of Thomas Sankara, the first president of anti-imperialist, pan-Africanist Burkina Faso. Excited undercurrents run through this conceptually agreed exchange, so that the slightest misnomer or appearance can set things in a certain dark path.
The wheels and company have no worries until they can repair the plane and the hotfoot at the doctor soon breaks it down. Guests at the camp include the smiling police chief Souleman (Ndiaga Mbau) and Awa (Evelyn Ily Juhen), an intensely young nute-sounding woman who knows hyenas and threatens to release them if certain conditions are not met. In such an environment – and with these offbeat characters – it seems perfectly normal for both Chaka and Rafa to be fluent in sign language. The screenplay skillfully utilizes this device to increase excitement and trigger unwanted plot twists.
About halfway through, Baobab’s mysterious atmosphere is clearly gathered into something violent. The catalyst is a recurring two night dream experienced by the wheel. This perspective compelled him to revisit the place and take revenge on those responsible for the heinous crime. Worse, these crimes continue in the service of a terribly compact between earthly and other worldly forces.
The sudden and spectacular consequence of wheel intervention is the release of monster creatures that do not bear instant resemblance to the countless beasts we have seen in ghost movies over the years. At first glance, these animals are seen flocking together in a whirlwind-like structure before being transformed into the shape of a human with horns like a bird. But there is more going on with this great CG creation. Earth elements such as leaves, dirt and other organic matter seem to be part of the mixture. It may be difficult to determine the exact structure of these entities, but what is beyond doubt is their ability to create shock, suspense and terror. Unlike many horror films, “Salum” lets its monsters loose almost exclusively in daylight, and for that it’s even better.
Packing a huge amount of action and information in just minutes, “Salum” shoots his story and character’s pistons through defeat. Hour’s connection to midnight with purpose and spiritual matters is a final act that brings a hymn to the hyenas and provides a highly satisfying solution to the film’s multi-level story.
Set for a great score by the French multi-instrumentalist Rexider, which includes everything from the heavenly chorus to the Afro drum beat, the “Salum” first-time feature is nicely shot on the widescreen by DP Gregory Corundi. All the technical aspects of the film depend on the money.