05th Dec2018

‘Ayla’ Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Nicholas Wilder, Tristan Risk, Dee Wallace, Sarah Schoofs, D’Angelo Midili, Bill Oberst Jr., Andrew Sensenig, Mehmet Canbeg, Darlene Sellers | Written and Directed by Elias


“Sometimes dead is better”

One of the wonderful things about the horror genre is the low barrier to entry. If a young filmmaker today has a GoPro, a monster energy drink and an idea (or someone else’s idea) then they can make a film. We are told, by the Roger Corman school of film making that for a young film maker getting out there and just making low budget horror films is the number one way to hone their craft and learn their skills. So what would a young John Carpenter have achieved given a GoPro and a can of monster energy drink back in the early 1960s?

This impossible to answer question somehow takes us into talking about the low ($39K of Kickstarter backer money) budget horror film Ayla from 2017. Written, directed and produced by “Elias” this film is not the first, stumbling works of a new film maker but is the latest in a line of output that started in the mid 90s. This one has a promising cast, featuring a couple of “scream queens” in Tristan Risk and Dee Wallace (who played Mary in ET, a film that did for more to kill John Carpenter’s The Thing than Kurt Russell did back in 1982).

If horror has taught us nothing else it is that bringing beloved pets, family members or the Saw Franchise back from the grave is a very, very bad idea. So our protagonist here, Elton (sort of) decides to bring back his long dead sister. What could possibly go wrong? Spoiler alert. Not as much as you might think from a horror film.

What did I like about Ayla? Well some of the cinematography is nice (albeit wobbly at times), it is, for the most part competently shot and the acting is decent (given the limitations of the script). The soundtrack fits very well with the film and is unobtrusive. The premise, it is fair to say, is pretty well worn but that is not always an issue. I always enjoy competently made zombie films, for example and if you play with the viewer’s preconceptions of a genre you can do something fun, interesting or surprising.

It does not help that Elton is such a dull weirdo (with an annoying voice), he seems to spend his whole life being a dull weirdo (with an annoying voice) and yet somehow has a loving, fun loving girlfriend who takes Elton to a ramshackle old house to sit with him on a bench to stare into the distance for hours and then later, much later it seems, to make sweet love on him while he imagines himself creepily staring down from the ceiling above. Perhaps she is after his money, although he works in a library so it’s unlikely. however the “no talking” rules of the library must come as a blessed relief.

Ayla does a very poor job of hiding the strings behind the scenes, characters say very odd and unnatural things for the purpose of plot and theme that are quite jarring. Elton’s questions to his Mum and girlfriend about seeing his 30-something years dead sister as an adult around the place prompt very odd comments about coming back from the grave rather than a call to the men in white coats. A rewriting of the script could surely have helped matters.

Elton also sexualises his deceased sister in a way I can’t quite fathom. She was 4 when she died and he was a similar age, even with his girlfriend he seems quite asexual. It is not so much shocking as it is off-putting and confusing. Why does Ayla come back as a 30 something rather than a 4 year old? Why do we get so many shots of her bottom? Why does her loving brother not seek medical help for her myriad of physical problems? Ah, questions.

Ayla is not terrible, there just isn’t enough here to make it worth your time or money. The run time of 120 minutes feels long and features an extended family melodrama that makes little sense and adds little to the film followed by an abrupt ending that is seriously lacking in pay off. What was the point of it all?

Sadly Ayla is not scary, fun, funny, nor interesting and being boring is the very worst a horror film can be.


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