Fantasia ’20 — ‘Kriya’ is as Hypnotic as it is Terrifying

A still from 'Kriya'. Sitara (Navjot Randhawa) stands in a mid-shot looking out to the left of the frame. She is a beautiful woman with dar, heavy makeup and incredibly dark, long hair. She wears a black dress and stands in front of what looks like an abandoned building. She seems contemplative.
Fantasia Film Festival

If one ever gets lucky enough to be invited home by a pretty woman who is down to have some fun, it probably isn’t ideal to end up walking into a funeral ritual.

In Sidharth Srinivasan’s eerie Kriya we are plunged into a night of terrors as the living interact with the dead in an ancient death ritual. Neel (Noble Luke) is hoping to get lucky with Sitara (Navjot Randhawa) after a night of DJ-ing but instead is thrust into a nightmare scenario that will give Western audiences Evil Dead meets Get Out vibes.

We watch Neel naively follow Sitara into her home and from the jump all is not right. From the music shifting from the upbeat club music to the ominous music cued up when the two hit the road to her house, everything is signaling Neel to run for dear life. All is over and done with when we see Sitara’s poorly lit palatial home. Through Srinivasan’s careful directing he guides us into this night of eerie terrors and troubling family dynamics.

A still from 'Kriya'. Neel (Noble Luke) stands in close up in centre frame. He is a dark skinned, thin young man with dark hair and a small beard/moustache. He has a bare chest and is covered completely in blood. The whites of his eyes stand out in the image as his eyes are wide open.
Fantasia Film Festival

It is difficult to truly speak on the film without tripping over plot details that would spoil the whole thing for a prospective viewer. Instead, what can be said is that this is an experience; the tension is ramped up to a deafening pitch that makes you want to look away, turn on the lights, and maybe look over your shoulder.

This film cannot truly succeed without the aid of Srinivasan’s carefully constructed sensory experience. The only thing that threatens to upend the film is the somewhat new-ish actors tasked with so much. Try as they may, they aren’t able to surpass that of B-movie acting— which can have its merits — but with a film that relies on putting us on edge bad acting doesn’t really help.

All in all, Kriya is a hypnotic affair that sends shivers down your spine. It is tonally consistent and beautifully captured on what is probably a very low-budget production. Srinivasan is truly a gifted director who has a lot going for him as a horror filmmaker.

Kriya enjoyed its Canadian Premiere at the virtual edition of Fantasia Film Festival 2020 on August 26th

by Ferdosa Abdi

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