Aiyai: Wrathful Soul (2020) Review



Terrific effects blend seamlessly in an appropriately dark environment however, the supporting characters offer very little in the way of depth over 80 minutes
Plot: AIYAI tells the story of a neighborhood that is plagued by mysterious tragedies when a young man becomes the conduit for an unknown spirit that lures victims to their chilling fates.
Review: Vengeful spirits deal their own brand of justice via demonic possession  under cover of darkness in the 2020 Australian horror film, Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, from GVKM Elephant Pictures and the directorial debut of Ilanthirayan Alan Arumugam.  An occupationally unstable student named Kiran (Kabir Singh), hot off a recent restaurant firing, accepts a job offer set up by his brother (Vinod Mohana Sundaram) at a funeral home operated by Albert (Richard Huggett) and is to work directly under his supervisor Darren (William Wensley).  Almost as soon as Kiran begins work, all hell breaks loose, things start flying around and people start burning to death.  Meanwhile, a group of vagabonds start their own turmoil in a subplot… or is it?  Kiran’s mental state unravels rapidly, to the dismay of his girlfriend Sara (Tahlia Jade Holt).  What dark secrets do the funeral home hold?  Who is involved with those secrets?  Can Kiran survive or hold a job? 
Aiyai is what you get if you went to see an average horror movie in a dollar theater without functioning lights, but then fell asleep and had a dream that some crazy guy ran in and somebody else randomly had a flamethrower, then you woke up.  The production value and environments in Aiyai are a welcome departure from your average low budget horror film, dynamic and dark throughout, and each in a literal and figurative sense.  The blending of practical and CGI effects makes this feel like a much bigger production than it is, and the viewer is even treated to the return of flame retardant suits, which used to be far more ubiquitous in horror and action.  
The trade-off of effects at the cost of character development becomes apparent the longer the film goes, however.  Supporting characters lack depth, and usually don’t have more than a single scene to flesh them out, and those tend to be ineffective.  This lack of depth can also betray the plot to the trained audience eye, since the characters who get more than a few lines or scenes are the only ones who can tie this story together by default.  As a short format similar to Tales from the Crypt, this smaller story presented in Aiyai would work pretty well.  As it is, the overabundance of characters and plot elements pack rather densely into this package of under 90 minutes.  
Aiyai is stronger in effects than characterization, but what this film does well, it does brilliantly.  Arumugam and his special effects team have definitely set a foundation for future projects, so whether something comes of series or full length features, Aiyai’s wrathful soul of creativity should be able to flow and possess other entertainment bodies.
Written by Ilanthirayan Alan Arumugam, Charles Benedict and Mukund Ramanan, directed by Ilanthirayan Alan Arumugam.