2021 | DIR: ILANTHIRAYAN ALAN ARUMUGAM | STARS: KABIR SINGH, ALBERT FISHER, PENNYANNE LACE, OZZIE DEVRISH, MARCO SINIGAGLIA, KOREY WILLIAMS, VINOD MOHANA SUNDARAM, TAHLIA JADE HOLT and CRAIG INGHAM | REVIEW BY SAMANTHA HOWSON
Kiran (Singh), our protagonist, gets a maintenance job working at the cemetery and funeral home when one day he is possessed by a vengeful soul. The mystery of the events is slowly revealed as we find out more about what links all these people together.
The acting by Kabir Singh was brilliant and really showcased his ability to switch between the relatable Kiran to the possessed spirit. The other actors were also considerable in their roles such as Ozzie Devrish, Marco Sinigaglia, Korey Williams, Vinod Mohana Sundaram, and Tahlia Jade Holt; but played characters within the story that were unnecessary. While others were underutilized, such as Pennyanne Lace and Craig Ingham.
The non-linear storytelling, involving flashbacks to fill the gaps in the story, made it disjointed and created confusing elements that then needed to be established. It felt a lot like a murder mystery television show where the flashbacks are revealed as the suspect finally tells his side of the story. But in this case, it was more of an attempt to feel empathy for Kiran and his unfortunate predicament. Because of this, the scenes with his girlfriend, unfortunately, didn’t land. The flashbacks also stunted the momentum and was unbalanced. Some scenes went too quickly to establish emotion, and other scenes went too long for no addition to the story.
The cinematography was really well done, and it had great elements of show don’t tell throughout. The supernatural effects were also visually exciting and really added to the overall tone of the film. The wrathful soul itself wasn’t shown too much and it worked in the story's favour. In particular, the crematorium scenes were exciting, and would have been great to see more of the fire and ash element.
I wouldn’t call AIYAI: WRATHFUL SOUL a horror film; it is more of a supernatural thriller. The suspense and visual anxiety of the film add to the slow reveal of the mystery at its core. It has some great visuals and story elements throughout but is unfortunately stunted due to the complicated and unbalanced editing. For a directorial debut, Ilanthirayan Alan Arumugam mixes genres of thriller, mystery, and drama to create a very solid first film.