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Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Kriya

Director/Writer: Sidharth Srinivasan

Starring: Avantika Akerkar, M.D. Asif, Kishan Bahurupiya


KRIYA is the nightmare odyssey of a young DJ named Neel who is picked up one fateful night by the beautiful Sitara, only to be thrust into a hallucinatory world of ritual magic surrounding the imminent death of her father.


INITIAL REACTION


C. For western audiences, Kriya attempts to be associated in the same subgenre as The Wicker ManKill List, or any other cult-like descent into madness movies but through an Indian lens. Overall I enjoyed its freshness. A large reason for this is its use of examining a culture and traditions outside of the Judeo-Christian standard that has been primarily associated with this kind of horror. The biggest flaw in that is on me rather than the movie itself. There’s so much nuance and subtlety that is specific to Indian traditions, while I followed along well, there were several points where I knew it would have impacted my viewing if I were more knowledgeable in that culture. Though in my opinion it’s a great problem to have. Through all it’s exaggerated realism and mysticism associated with cinematic storytelling, you feel like you’ve experienced a more authentic portrait of another. With that being said I found the ending to go on too long, with its only purpose providing unneeded exposition. Without spoiling anything we learned that the family is attempting to break a cursed cycle, which we are provided with in dialogue. At one point we see the repetition of the cycle occur and that’s it. No variation to provide a form of this being “different.” Now many stories have told this never ending cycle and that’s fine, however, I’m  acknowledging that showing this felt unnecessary and took away some of the umpf that we could have ended with. I admit it’s a weird one for me to chat about. It’s executed incredibly well and has a strong artistic voice that makes something fresh out of a subgenre that some have called stale or overdone lately. But I wasn’t blown away at all. Maybe after I have time to digest what I watched and see the responses from Josh and Kyle, I’ll feel more confident in my stance on it. K.  Kriya starts off with a really interesting premise, a DJ hooks up with a girl, they go back to her place and the twist is she’s brought him there to participate in a dark ritual involving her dying father.  Sounds freaking great, however they don’t really stay true to that.  Neel, the DJ, pivots way too smoothly at this turn of events, when he should be more thrown.  That’s the first of many moments in the film that don’t ring true.  The dialogue switches between Hindi and English with no rhyme or reason.  The behavior of the characters exists in some kind of zero gravity where nothing has weight, emotion, or dramatic relevance. The father dies and what follows is a tedious ritual to ensure that his soul reaches Heaven and a series of confusing reversals.  Let’s be clear this is a solid goal to build a story around but the problem here is that the stakes are not established.  What happens if his soul does or doesn’t reach Heaven?  What obstacles stand in the way?  How does this connect to the subplot of Neel’s grief over his own father’s death?  Beats the hell out of me and the filmmakers too, apparently. I don’t like writing reviews like this.  But all we owe art and the artist is honesty, otherwise you’re just showering false praise over something in an effort to be nice.  The film’s strengths are its cinematography and lighting.  The makeup and the imagery of both deceased fathers is effectively creepy but unfortunately these elements only pop when the storytelling is engaging.  And unfortunately, I found nothing to be engaging in Kriya. J. Have you ever seen a feature length film and had the thought, this would work much better as a short? If so, you already know what I'm gonna say about Kriya. The set up is bizarre and intriguing. And that's pretty much it. Then a lot of nothing. Then a lot of asking yourself why the protagonist doesn't just leave the house he's at inhabited by a bunch of psychos. It's like if the characters in Texas Chain Saw Massacre had the option to leave the Sawyer house they would, right? This poor sap, Neel just doesn't take the hint and of course when he does, it's too late.  I yelled at the screen a lot during this. There's a lot to be said about the culture and customs that Kriya evokes but it could've been accomplished in 10 or 15 minutes and had a greater impact.


RESPONSE


C. I know I’m a little more forgiving than my cohorts and while I’m surprised at the level in which they didn’t enjoy Kriya, I can’t argue their responses. As I mentioned in my first reaction, I was in a weird place of not exactly knowing where to stand. I appreciate the cultural aspects that make this type of possession film feel more unique. That being said, while I agree from a story standpoint with Josh and Kyle of, why doesn’t he just leave and it feels like it would be better as an amazing short. I feel part of the traditional Indian culture plays heavily into some of those criticisms. Also, the discussion on why they go in and out of English at certain points made sense to me. Western influence has played a major role to the point that younger generations of many traditionally non-english speaking countries have created this conversational hybrid of their native and english languages. As the story progresses they become more traditional, losing what has become modern culture. However, while acknowledging my intrigue and how certain aspects may play a role in how the film’s story is told, I can’t deny there’s sadly not enough to it to be a captivating watch. Kriya is an incredible exercise that ultimately fails. J. Yeah……. This movie doesn’t work for me.  Kyle’s thoughts are correct, while Craig is… I dunno, being Craig.  I mean he’s comparing this to The Wicker Man and Kill List for fuck’s sake. The Nic Cage version of The Wicker Man was a masterpiece compared to this.  10 or 15 minutes would’ve gotten the point across so be warned that, at least for me, there’s a lot to sit through that was ultimately confusing and also not  necessary.  K.  I agree 100% with Josh.  The cultural perspective was an interesting starting point, as was the narrative setup, but this just went nowhere and wasn’t interesting.  It pains me to even remember sitting through this thing. Bloodhound’s average score: 1 1/5 out of 5