Title: Ayla

Also known as:

Year: 2017

Genre: Horror / Drama / Fantasy

Language: English

Runtime: 86 min

Director: Elias Ganster

Writer: Elias Ganster

IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4044896/

Elton has nightmarish visions of his sister that passed away when she was just 4 years old. By following his visions he finds a way to bring her back to life. His mother, brother and girlfriend all think he is insane when he claims this 30-something year old woman is his dead sister.

Our thoughts:
I've always felt that Elias is an underrated filmmaker. Both the movie "Gut", which he wrote, produced and directed; as well as "Dark", which he wrote and produced, are really interesting independent horror films that I keep going back to in my mind many times over. Yet I don't hear them being talked about that much and critical opinion seems to vary on both of them. The same goes for "Ayla", which I unfortunately will have to admit is my least favorite of these films so far. Still, it's an admirably strange effort that does a lot of things right.

Elton is plagued by visions of his dead sister. The sister died when she was just 4 years old, yet the visions he sees are of an adult and nude woman. When Elton is finally lead to a tree, he finds something that leads to his sister coming back to life - as her older self. Obviously this is far from a good idea and weird things start to happen. Elton's connection to his sister develops further into something strange.

This is an introverted horror movie, no doubt about it. It has an intriguing Cronenbergian body horror flair to it, but it's the psychological breakdown and loneliness of Elton that drives the movie. The more you can relate to the lasting torment of loss, the more this movie is going to get into your head. Mixing the themes of mourning, loneliness and sexuality in the way that Ayla does proves to be quite a mindbending dish. The strange, incestuous tension that you feel through the entire movie is one that does make you feel uncomfortable at times, and it makes it hard to know if you're suffering with Elton, or just think he's mental.

The movie is being lead by talents like Nicholas Wilder as Elton, Tristan Risk as Ayla, and of course the amazing Dee Wallace as Elton's mother Susan. And let's not forget Bill Oberst Jr. as one of the weirdest motel receptions on this side of Bates. The movie is, overall, a well crafted horror movie on a purely production side of things.

The problem with "Ayla" overall seems to be that I never really connect with it. The themes on their own, and the idea of them blending, is interesting, but the movie itself kinda just... is. I don't know if it goes all the way back to the script, or if it's in stuff like how music is used (which is rather generic and plays over most scenes) or the disconnect feel of the characters - no matter how well acted they were when looked at individually. What I was watching was intriguing in its core, yet I did end up feeling bored at times. When you compare "Ayla" to something like "Dark", this should be the most memorable of the two - "Dark" is simply about a blackout, while "Ayla" is a weird body horror/psychological mix. But unfortunately "Ayla" is not a movie I will remember as long, perhaps except for a few moments here and there.

That doesn't mean that "Ayla" is bad. It just comes off as a bit underdeveloped, and something we've seen before. There are a number of messed up indie horror movies out there, so it's hard for a movie like "Ayla" to stand out. No, it doesn't just try to be a "weird movie", it has a ton of context and thought put into it, but the combination of every talent - as impressive as the individual efforts were - didn't mix into something I could connect to. Maybe that's a problem on my end, who knows?

Positive things:
- Solid cast.
- Interesting ideas.
- Plays more on the psychological over the body horror aspect.
- Overall a well-crafted indie.
Negative things:
- It never truly grabbed me.
- The generic soundtrack didn't clash well with certain scenes.
- Felt like I had seen it before.

Gore: 1/5
Nudity: 3/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 3.5/5
Comedy: 1/5

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