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The Horror Tropes In “Living In Bondage Breaking Free” Explained

At the end of Living In Bondage: Breaking Free, Ramsey Nouah is onboard a private jet and sips from a champagne flute.

It’s a picture of extravagance. Slice the film into half and it bleeds money and Rolexes, an aggressive show of candy-colored wealth by its main characters. First-time director Ramsey Nouah has made a sequel to the 1992 film modern and glossy, but what no one will tell you is that Breaking Free is a horror film. Gasps. You didn’t know?

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Explicitly put, the original film is an occult horror classic in the same universe with femme fatale supernatural flicks like Nneka the Pretty Serpent and Karishika.

This was what 90’s Nollywood horror was about, the industry’s golden era. Breaking Free is the latest (and worthy) descendant from that primordial soup, where the original film is regarded as the ‘’first Nollywood film.’’

Living in bondage images | Photo: Pulse

Before its release, Ramsey Nouah said in an interview that the horror in the sequel was toned down for a more ‘’sexy, Illuminati vibe.’’ Because of this, I threw a mini-tantrum on social media, frustrated that we were going to have a film without a soul, and that was when I [whispers] perversely started referring to Nouah’s directorial debut as a ‘’Yahoo-yahoo film.’’

Horror tropes are recurring themes or elements in a horror film and, if you aren’t into horror, these things are just bound to fly over your head.

The Creepy Little Girl

The opening shot of Breaking Free cuts right into horror: an aerial view of a meandering bush path at night, dotted by a car’s headlights. A little girl singing a haunting Igbo lullaby is the sound that accompanies this scene. Obinna Omego, a member of the occult group The Six is with his little daughter which he would later behead with a cutlass, human sacrifice in a deal with the Devil for wealth.

The next time we see her, she appears as a ghost to haunt Omego. She’s wearing the same clothes she wore on the night of her murder, but this time streaked with stains and blood. The Creepy Little Girl trope has appeared in many horror movies, from Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, The Shinning to Silent Hill and The Grudge. Jordan Peele’s 2019 horror movie Us has a black creepy girl in the early scenes if you are looking for diversity.

This horror reference falls in a spectrum where children (mostly girls) manifest as ghosts, apparitions or zombies. They can be plot devices or not. In Breaking Free, Omego’s daughter’s ghost plunges him into insanity, committing suicide by jumping off the balcony.

Us Movie | Credit: Universal Pictures

The Inverted Cross

Having cut ties from The Six, Andy Okeke has settled into the life of a pastor, and the scene where he’s visited by cult leader Richard Williams in the church is one of the movie’s complex portrayal of horror. Before Williams arrives, the crosses on the wall slowly invert themselves.

The trope of The Inverted Cross is the hallmark of possession horror movies and signals the presence of demonic activity. The Conjuring movies are good modern examples. In that universe, when a cross turns upside down, it means something bad is about to happen. I don’t know who made this rule, but Nouah’s Lucifer-esque character gives Pastor Okeke a briefly hellish time.

Inverted Cross. Photo Australian Christian Body

The Devil Trope

How Ramsey Nouah embodies the Devil shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following his career trajectory. From shapeshifting between good and evil in Tade Ogidan’s Dangerous Twins to becoming quietly maniacal in Kunle Afolayan’s psychological horror The Figurine. In Breaking Free, Nouah’s abiding good looks make his portrayal of the Devil trope even more devastating.

The cadence in his voice, facial expressions, the gait, his humor with the propensity to turn dark. Only natural that he’s the leader of The Six. Nouah’s Richard Williams also shows special powers – teleportation, telekinesis, and the way he entices Andy Okeke’s son Nnamdi into The Six is a move only the Devil is capable of.

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