By Rejoice Anodo
A frantic phone call in Igbo made by a young man struggling to walk, a trail of blood dripping from a gunshot wound, and eerie background music— all these gory-vised happenings hover over Yahoo+, Ebuka Njoku’s debut on Netflix, like a vicious-eyed stalker, watering the ground for a display of excellent acting.
The movie’s plot introduces us to two best friends of Igbo descent, Ose (Keezyto) and Abacha (Somadina Adinma), who decide to become wealthy despite all odds. Their failed stint at becoming stars in Nollywood spurs them to take on Yahoo, a Nigerian slang for “fraud”, but they are still unsatisfied with their snail-like progress. From their actions, we see that Ose is the more proactive friend who calls the shots, while Abacha seeks to be the voice of reason, even though he follows in his friend’s footsteps afterward.
The instruction given to them by Mansa, the faceless boss, who has promised to make them wealthy through Yahoo+ is to provide two young girls for sacrifice. They opt for runs girls, a slang term for sex workers, but things take a dark turn when one of the solicited young women, Kamso (Echelon Mbadiwe) turns out to be Abacha’s lover. He expresses a varied mix of emotions—shock, disbelief, betrayal, and anger—and ultimately decides to abandon the whole operation.
His friend, Ose is angered by this “betrayal” and decides to take actions into his own hands, making Abacha a captive as well, by tying his hands and feet with ropes. Abacha’s sentiments get in the way of Ose’s ambition throughout the film: to get wealthy. Ikolo (Ken Erics), the supposed medicine man for the rituals, turns out to be a medical doctor, part of an organ trafficking ring, a section of a crime gang based in Hong Kong.
While Ebuka Njoku seeks to show us how people engage in human rituals for the aim of getting wealth, he fails to carry along other societal vices. Money rituals, organ trafficking, and prostitution are entangled in a sadistic love triangle, and the film complicates it further. If a person, outside of the Nigerian society where these vices are prevalent, watches this film, their view would be somewhat biased, and somewhat for a good measure of reason. It aims to pinpoint flaws in money ritual schemes, yet it is misdelivered as a muddled depiction.
Cinephiles and avid Nollywood production followers can easily draw uneven parallels from Yahoo+ to Living in Bondage (1992) and Living in Bondage: Breaking Free (2019). Although both focus on the same theme: money rituals for wealth, their protagonists embody their roles differently, as their acting does not have the same flair. Yahoo+ seems like a poor remake of the Living in Bondage sequel, and its poor acting drains the life out of the movie.
Nevertheless, Yahoo+ succeeds at sowing the seeds of “bad things are bad, don’t do them” and watering it with ill-fated decisions till they grow to become “bad things are bad, see where it got you now”. It is safe to say the film is a barrage of embellished moral lessons.
It also reinforces existing stereotypes and appeals to the morbid sense of success of what a moral person would expect at the end of it all. There is a subtle inclusion of the fact that money rituals are prevalent among Igbos, as all the characters involved are disturbingly so. It is typical of what Nigerian society expects: sex workers deserve to die since they chose the wrong path of survival, and people who take on money rituals to make wealth deserve to get caught or killed. Beyond that, Nollywood has seen a remarkable ascent in acting and cinematography, especially with its thrillers, but Yahoo+ might need more than a push to join the cannon.