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Aiyai: Wrathful Soul: Directed by Ilanthiravan Alan Arumugam.

Starring: Kabir Singh, William Wensley, Tahlia Jade Holt, Pennyanne Lace.

Over the last year, Aiyai: Wrathful Soul has been forging a tear on the international festival market securing over 24 Official selections, including 14 award wins. Not surprisingly, due to this recognition, the film has enjoyed a widespread buzz & following on social media. With that said, upon seeing the film’s striking poster & enthralling trailer, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. So, is the film worth all the hype? Well, read on…

In Ilanthiravan Alan Arumugam’s debut full length feature, we meet Kiran (played by Kabir Singh), a young man, originally from India, trying to make his way through college in Australia. Unfortunately, for Kiran, the universe has other plans as an encounter with a pair of junkies in his place of work (in the kitchen of the restaurant) results in the loss of his job. Now, desperate to find a new job to pay off his school expenses and kickstart his idyllic life with his loving girlfriend, Kiran takes on a new job as the assistant at a local crematorium and funeral home.

While initially straightforward at first glance (i.e. assisting with funeral preparations and grounds keeping), this perception of his job eventually takes a darker turn as some of his co-workers progressively start to become more and more physically and verbally abusive towards him, causing his stress levels to grow. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, this growing bitterness allows Kiran to become an ideal conduit for a vengeance-seeking ghost hellbent on seeking revenge on the same management of the said crematorium.

Arumugam, who also co-wrote the screenplay and wrote the original story, does an amazing job here with this thrilling tale. In a relatively finite amount of time, he manages to incorporate classic elements of horror storytelling (i.e. the horror of being lost and overwhelmed in a new land, the crappy job with burdensome duties, or the disquieted spirit seeking retribution), Arumugam provides an intriguing spin on the trope by showing us - the audience - how our frustrations combined with our physical state can open us up to other unearthly influences. A concept which Arumugam effectively holds up well throughout the film’s story as it unravels.

Honestly, my only real complaint about this movie is its cinematography. For instance, in some of the night scenes featured throughout the film, it’s sometimes quite murky - so much so that it’s sometimes hard to see the characters. Additionally, I felt that there was a missed opportunity to fully utilize the graveyard around the crematorium - a location which I felt played a larger role upon further viewing..

Other than those minor things, the story overall along with the performances on display hold up really well. For example, actor Kabir Singh really carries this film from beginning to end as he makes Kiran a believable and sympathetic character. All in all, Aiyai: Wrathful Soul is well worth the watch.

Overall grade: B +


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