Crematoriums are inherently creepy. It doesn’t get much more morbid than a joint that literally exists to burn corpses down to ash, and yet there are relatively few genre films that have capitalised on this. Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, the debut feature from director Ilanthirayan Alan Arumugam, seeks to address this omission to mixed results.
Aiyai tells the tale of Kiran (Kabir Singh), an Indian student living in Australia. After losing his previous job in a kitchen in the opening minutes, Kiran takes a gig at a creepy crematorium, staffed solely, it seems, by weirdos. However, it soon becomes clear that there’s more than just eerie Aussies to be concerned about and Kiran begins to experience shenanigans of a supernatural nature, including, but not limited to, seemingly possessed ash, weird visitations, furniture that moves by itself and eventual spiritual takeover. It’s a lot, and one certainly can’t fault the look and ambition of the film, which boasts surprisingly slick visuals and impressive production values.
On the downside, the script is a bit of a mess, playing fast and loose with horror cliches and never quite settling into a groove. It’s fitfully entertaining, and a couple of sequences really look the business, but the rules and character motivations are frequently frustratingly opaque. Performances, too, are a bit rough around the edges, with Kabir Singh coming off a little too stiff to be an effective leading man. Tahlia Jade Holt fares a little better as girlfriend Sara, although her continued resistance to seeking help for her red-eyed, gurning, blood covered bae becomes a tad inexplicable as the film wears on.
Aiyai: Wrathful Soul is a gorgeous-looking film in search of a better script. It certainly has some effective moments, and some very silly ones, but doesn’t quite hang together. Still, fans of low budget Aussie horror will probably find something to love in this awkward, occasionally endearing, tale of ashy revenge from beyond the grave.