A supernatural horror story has certain unique challenges. One of those is when and how to do the paranormal reveal. What is the point where both the protagonists and the audience know for sure that the answer to “what’s going on here, anyway?” question is in some way otherworldly. Some movies do it right up front, and others — even ones with titles like “The Super Ghost-Infested Castle and the Real Vampires” — put it way at the back, sometimes even after the credits. Some films split the task: the audience knows before the protagonist does. And of course, unreliable narration could mean that what seems supernatural might be merely delusional.
Aiyai: Wrathful Soul breaches the veil about 20 minutes in. A few spooky shadows and some mood lighting and rattling doors, but there’s plausible deniability until one point when we see definitive poltergeist activity, and it’s out of the line of sight of our protagonist, the hapless Kiran (Kabir Singh). He figures it out a bit later.
Kiran starts a new job at a mortuary, as a sort of general handyman. His boss is the jovial Darren (William Wensley), who gets hostile when drunk. Kiran keeps his head down, avoids confrontation, and sets to being a good worker so he can save up money for school. Things are a touch creepy, but not too bad. One of his coworkers is a bit unsettling (Michael, plaid very straight by Craig Ingham) and the owner of the company is Albert Fisher, played by Richard Huggett, who comes across as an Aussie Ray Wise. Most of the first half of the film is just these three men, intercut with scenes of a violent drug pusher, Tom (Ozzie Devrish), who reminds me a lot of the surly Brion James from Blade Runner. What, I asked myself, does this character have to do with Kiran and his new job?
We find out when the only woman in the first half of the movie, one of Tom’s dealers, Amy (Pennyanne Lace), is getting beaten by Tom as Kiran is walking by. He tries to protect her, and Tom threatens his life before running off after Amy, who tries to escape.
The next day, no one is at work, and Kiran discovers that Darren’s office has been trashed, there’s ash all over the place, and the furnace in the crematorium isn’t working. It’s at this point we see furniture moving around, revealing the supernatural.
All if this happens before the bit in the summary, which is all about what happens in the second half. See, Darren dies. Fairly horribly by fire. And Kiran is found catatonic on the scene. The police suspect him of murder, but — well, he’s hard to question when he never speaks again.
Then there are other deaths, all with some link to Kiran.
Aiyai: Wrathful Soul is mostly daylight horror, which I tend to appreciate when done well. The cinematography and effects are excellent, and the acting, while a bit caricatured in some cases, seems to be exactly right for this story. Singh does a great job portraying Kiran in all of his modes, from friendly, to beaten, to catatonic, to … the other thing.
There is some ham-fisted foreshadowing, but overall this is well-written, logical and thoughtful, and somehow manages to not be predictable.
Incidentally, an opening card says, “Inspired by true events” — no, you won’t catch me with that one, not ever again after Blair Witch Project.
Scix has been a news anchor, a DJ, a vaudeville producer, a monster trainer, and a magician. Lucky for HorrorBuzz, Scix also reviews horror movies. Particularly fond of B-movies, camp, bizarre, or cult films, and films with LGBT content.