Something Wicked This Way Comes with Creepy Witch Film The Wretched (2020)
Title: The Wretched
First Wide Release: May 1st, 2020 (Streaming/Drive in Theaters)
Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Writer: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Starring: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones
Where to Watch: $6.99 on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, Apple, Vudu, Microsoft
After breaking and entering into his neighbor’s house to score some Vicodin, Ben is sentenced to spending his summer working at his Dad’s marina upstate. Once settled into his new home, Ben notices some odd things not adding up about his new neighbors. Strange noises come from outside their house late at night, the mother is behaving erratically, and their young son seems terrified all the time. Ben has to figure out how to save the ones he cares about before it’s too late.
Typical of many teen horrors before it, The Wretched is a fun and thrilling mashup of Rear Window, Fright Night, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the film’s antagonist is an ancient witch with a proclivity for feasting on children. The Wretched starts out with a bang, visually acclimating us to the carnage that is about to unfold. From there it returns to form introducing us to a myriad of characters, several of which feel a little unnecessary. Mixing several different folkloric stories together The Wretched creates a unique witch-meets-changeling monster that makes for some fun and scary scenes. While nothing groundbreaking, The Wretched serves up enough interesting ideas to engage its audience and justify its creation.
The cast of The Wretched does a solid job of bringing the script to life. John-Paul Howard performs respectfully in the leading role of Ben. Piper Curda and Jamison Jones are clear standouts, however, as Mallory, Ben’s quirky co-worker and friend, and Liam, Ben’s father. Curda brings some depth to Mallory even when the script fails her. Jones's earnest portrayal of Liam brought an added layer of sympathy to his character as well as Ben’s. While their characters exist mostly to help develop Ben further, they feel just fleshed out enough for the audience to care about them. It is also worth noting that the supporting child actors in The Wretched did great work and rose above the pitfalls that usually surround children in horror.
The Wretched is a fun yet moody film, tonally walking a line between a campy summer horror film and darker teen angst. Visually, The Wretched has a nice smooth feel to it. The creative team makes great use of the environment of the town to add a darker and more mysterious feel to the film. Gorgeous shots of the lake and woods abound, and the latter contains many disorienting and striking barrages of imagery that stick to the viewer like thick honey, glazing over them throughout the film’s entirety.
From a technical standpoint, The Wretched boasts competence and polish. Largely, scenes transition well into one another, with only minor issues here and there regarding the passage of time. I know I was confused at the end of the film, unsure if an entire summer passed or merely one week. The effects were a treat to witness. Practical and executed with finesse, much of the supernatural was not only done well, but it was also captivating. I felt even more engrossed in the film because of the excellent design and effects work.
The Wretched is a well-directed, gem of a supernatural chiller. Steadily paced, The Wretched never rushes to tell its story while refusing to lag in its tempo. Brett and Drew Pierce did solid work in creating suspense while working with familiar themes and tropes. It was clear that the filmmakers wanted to pay homage to many great horror films made before it without lifting directly from them. I will never claim that The Wretched is groundbreaking in any way, but it is a solid horror film that makes wonderful use of its script, cast, and setting to formulate a fun and, at times, scary experience. I am unfamiliar with the Pierce’s first film Deadheads, but their sophomore feature The Wretched has convinced me to check it out.
Typical of many teen horror films, The Wretched makes connections between its material and the growing pains of adolescence. Growing up, taking responsibility, and navigating adult conversations and relationships, The Wretched explores the archetypal scenario of a teenager asking trusted adults to believe them when they suspect something is going wrong. Thankfully, The Wretched approaches this idea without taking itself too seriously or satirically, which makes for a straightforward and entertaining morality tale.
The Wretched is undoubtedly a fun and well-crafted teen scream. Featuring plenty of up-and-coming young talent, a clever script, intense scares and sequences, and a believably scary antagonist, The Wretched is the perfect horror film to enjoy during the summer. While I am unsure where it will end up in my end of the year list, I whole-heartedly recommend The Wretched for anyone that wants sleek, straightforward horror aimed at a younger demographic. Bubbling with teen angst and sinister witchcraft, The Wretched supplies more terror than it does hocus pocus.
Overall Score? 7/10