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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. Elias Ganster

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

Elias Ganster’s AYLA is a mesmerising assault on emotions that delves into madness in a way only matched by the great Lynch himself. UNDER THE SKIN meets MULHOLLAND DRIVE in a performance driven horror that battles demons of literal and metaphorical being.

When grief stricken Elton (Nicholas Wilder) discovers a way to bring his dead sister back from the dead, he takes the chance with open arms. Unfortunately for Elton, his sister passed thirty years previously and the grief and attachment he has carried for these years brings adversity to his family and own conscience.

The rebirth of Ayla (Tristan Risk) is graphically satisfying and as she succumbs to her being, it becomes apparent that thirty years apart leave thirty years of absence mind. Where the central story focuses more on Elton's character, where the film needs to inject some graphic content, it does so in a way that is gratifyingly horrific. The use of special effects and knowing of what to and not to show on screen makes AYLA a perfectly managed piece that shocks and delivers on a Cronenberg-esque level.

A brilliant central performance from Wilder conceives a broken man at the brink of desperation. As Elton goes further down the rabbit hole, his own sanity and grief become overwhelmingly unrestraint and while his thoughts of a return of his beloved sister should have bought him closer with the world, move him further away. His drive is portrayed with an absolute that makes the strange piece both moving and relatable for anyone who has ever lost a loved one although the madness that descends is both subtle and real, it’s a world destroying chaos for at least Wilder as he moves further away from the ones who are there for him.

While there is little in terms of script for Risk, her presence is hypnotic and menacing as she is carried by the emotions of her brother’s wishes. There are no words from her character but there are also none needed. The connection between the two is alien and symbolic of the nature that grief has holding people over time. The longer the grieving process goes on, the easier it is to forget how things were and ultimately how they could have been. While there is a mysterious force at play to deliver Ayla, this film is one of grief and behaviour, one that shows the destruction it can have on individuals and those close by.

AYLA is an independent film that was part funded by Kickstarter but don’t let that put you off for you would be missing out on one of 2017’s best films. While the subject of a returning presence may have been seen before, but this one really tugs at the old grey matter and pays for perseverance.

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