Kriya (2021) Summons Passable Supernatural Terror
First Non-Festival Release: September 14, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms, etc)
Director: Sidharth Srinivasan
Writer: Sidharth Srinivasan
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Starring: Noble Luke, Navjot Randhawa, Avantika Akerkar
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
One night when Neel (Noble Luke) is DJing at a club he follows the beautiful Sitara (Navjot Randhawa) back home. Once they arrive, Neel is brought into a room where Sitara’s mother Tara Devi (Avantika Akerkar) is praying over the nearly dead body of her husband, along with assorted other family members. Stunned, Neel goes through the motions of what is customary of a guest walking in on this situation and tries to make a speedy exit. Sitara begs Neel to stay and carry out the customs and rituals that are necessary to be performed for her father after his death.
An intriguing slow-burn, Kriya fails to perform the expected ritual of engaging its audience despite cool setup.
Opening with thumping nightclub music and rhythmic lighting allows Kriya to introduce itself as a mysterious and exciting film. The pulsing club music mixed with the flashing neon lights showcases the uncertainty and intensity promised with the film’s concept. It’s a shame the rest of the film is rather plain in comparison despite starting out with ambiguity and creepiness. Once Neal reaches Sitara’s home and assumes the duties of carrying out the patriarch’s funeral, the energy tapers off before going steadily downhill in the subsequent acts.
The acting vacillates depending on the intensity of the scene. Most of the steady, more dramatic moments of the film are executed fine while some of the more heated are less than ideal. Characters, however, in Kriya are strong. All of them have unique and nuanced backstories and motivations which makes for a more interesting watch. This is especially true for Sitara, who leaves the audience guessing what she is really after as she coerces Neal into staying.
There’s much to be said here about the cyclical nature of violence and trauma which is explored in Kriya. This family has been plagued with violence their entire lives, often initiating bouts of grief in response to death of loved ones. The rituals employed here, which very much could be utilized due to cultural significance alone and not thematic reasons, can be a metaphor for the nature of how grief manifests in families. Dutifully sitting next to dying relatives, agonizing over who carries out ceremonies of death and which ceremonies those are, taking on the pain of others through self-sacrifice, are all very real things both in and outside of this film. It’s interesting to think about both in the context of identities as well.
Kriya is a difficult film for me to review because I very much wanted to like it, but I constantly felt held back by one thing or another. It’s a dark and rather sinister film with plenty of interesting lore and cultural history behind it, but it doesn’t feel fleshed out. I’m also confused why it switches between Hindi and English so often. These both might be the result of cultural differences rather than the fault of the filmmakers. Nevertheless, it does feel cheap by the end. Its budget shows once we arrive at the house and the action stagnates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does kill momentum that the film desperately needs to stay creepy and engaging.
While it isn’t a bad film, Kriya flounders in tying everything together. Strong characters and a unique mystery make for some easy material for the creators to work with in crafting a chilling film. Unfortunately, Kriya is bogged down by its dreadful pacing and lack of escalation in terms of rising action. It culminates in its climax which doesn’t feel exciting, scary, or altogether compelling. It’s a solid concept that needs some reworking along the edges to make it the gem it could be. You don’t need to perform any otherworldly ritual to summon Kriya into your life; just get Shudder.
Overall Score? 5.5/10