Nine year-old Karo is a troubled otherworldly girl born in a family with no moral fiber. She is molested by an alcoholic father. Her mother is torn between helping her daughter and desperately protecting her marriage. She puts up with it. Helpless, Karo endures ordeal after ordeal of rape and torture from a protector-turned-molester father.
When she confides in her grandmother Cucu Wangari about the source of the peril that turns her own father to sexually use her, Cucu leads her through a ritual in which a wandering evil spirit is made to posses her leading her to set ablaze her family house on her ninth birthday, burning alive her parents and her sisters. The spirit, Nyawira, is the restless ghost of a nine-year-old girl who seeks vengeance on the residents of the village of Ndathia on the slopes of Mount Kenya who killed her under bizarre circumstances more than thirty years before. This demented spirit takes possession of Karo and gives her an appetite for blood. She turns Karo into an cold-hearted slayer whose new natural inclination is to lure people she doesn’t like into death by using her mind to light up fires and set up accidents. She ropes Karo into a dramatic whirlpool that that takes her to Nairobi and a decade later Karo grows into a marginally pubescent woman. She kills anyone who prevents her from getting what she wants. When she is locked up in a mental sanatorium, Dr. Muthoni, a psychologist specializing in “psychoplasmics” — the physical manifestation of a person’s rage — takes up her case, treats her and discovers that Karo’s manifestations go well beyond the usual welts and scars. She and her equally cold-hearted colleagues in the institution use Karo as a test subject from one experiment to another for four years. But Karo is given new powers to free herself and her ability to light fires with her mind finally leads her to burn Dr, Muthoni, her colleagues and the entire mental facility down to the ground. Karo escapes. This is where it gets serious… it begins here. This is where the story begins.
Happy 9th Birthday is quick-paced, fascinating and disturbing — largely because it’s so well-written. Broadly drawn characters and a ridiculous plot only heighten the deliciously dark mystery of this popcorn thriller. Okang’a Ooko’s visual style in this one is packed with kinetic style, dreamlike sequences and lush colors. His cinematic direction, oodles of atmosphere, a strong cast and realistic, well-rounded characters make this story a true diamond in the rough.