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Review: AYLA (2017)

The line between fairy tales and horror stories is a thin one. It’s no secret the original versions of these children’s stories were dark and blood, filled with madness and death. In AYLA singularly named writer/director Elias (GUT) walks that line with intriguing and sometimes devastating results.

Elton (Nicholas Wilder GUT, AFGHAN HOUND) never got over the death of his then four-year-old sister Ayla. Thirty years later he’s still obsessed with her, even hallucinating her presence watching him as he has sex with his girlfriend Alex (Sarah Schoofs, MEME, INFERNUM). He finds a pod in the woods that hatches into a grown version of Ayla (Tristan Risk HARVEST LAKE, FETISH FACTORY). A grown version with the mind of a child, one that he will have to educate and teach how to be human. None of this sits well with Alex or his family, especially his mother (Dee Wallace CRITTERS, DOLLS) who has to deal with her daughter’s bizarre return. Can this end anything but badly?

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AYLA is a trip into a deeply disturbed and twisted psyche. The plot sounds like a monster film, and to a degree it is. But that monster is spawned from Elton’s own mind. Ayla is a tulpa, a being willed into existence by the mind, but at least somewhat possessed of free will. His obsession with his sister has brought this version of her into existence. We know she is real, others see her, but just what they’re seeing they can’t be sure of. Their confusion and fear, not for themselves but for Elton, is strong. And as things become more bizarre and Elton’s physical and mental state begin to deteriorate, they have good reason to fear for him. Ayla may not be a monster with claws and fangs, but she can destroy him anyway.

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The film also has a very strong and not exactly healthy sexual element. I’m not going to give anything away, but you’ll probably be able to guess where things end up going. AYLA doesn’t shy away from taboo areas. Thankfully, the cast, especially Wilder and Risk, are able to deliver the performances it calls for. Also look for genre stalwarts Bill Oberst Jr.  (PAINKILLER, CIRCUS OF THE DEAD) and Andrew Sensenig (DIVERGE, UPSTREAM COLOR)in small roles.

AYLA isn’t a film for everyone, it’s twisted, dark and intense. It’s also a powerful one that will provoke thought as well as shock and possibly offend. It’s available now on VOD, cable on demand, etc. and I suggest you see it.

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