26th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘The Wretched’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: John-Paul Howard, Kevin Bigley, Gabriela Quezada Bloomgarden, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Richard Ellis, Blane Crockarell, Judah Abner Paul, Ja’layah Washington, Amy Waller | Written and Directed by Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

wretched-poster

A film by the brothers Pierce (Bret and Drew), The Wretched is a horror flick about a teenage kid named Ben who goes to battle with an ancient witch who is living beneath the skin of the woman next door. That’s the summary, the plot synopsis, the nut-shell on the back of the VHS cover (erm… Blu-ray case) but there’s much more to The Wretched than that.

Ben (John-Paul Howard) is struggling with dealing with his parents’ divorce, and is staying with his Dad in a seaside town for the summer. Their relationship is strained and Ben is doing his best to mingle with the locals in order to get through his time away from home. Ben starts to see weird things happening and discovers than a thousand-year-old witch has possessed the body of the neighbour, and Ben has to fight her and try to end her reign of terror. The problem with this plan is that the witch puts everyone under her spell when she wishes, and nobody believes Ben’s stories about her. Getting people to believe is only half of the battle, the other half is stopping the evil hag before it’s too late.

It’s a fun concept and blends the coming-of-age type of movie, full of teenage angst and hormones with a pure-fun horror film about an evil witch who needs to be taken down. It’s very entertaining stuff, and Bret and Drew, the Pierce brothers, did a good job in writing and directing it. It flows nicely and never feels sluggish or tedious, with the story offering enough tension and scares to feel like a horror film but enough drama and backstory to the characters to create some good development and interest. It’s pretty damn unpredictable too, which is always something I love in horror, a genre often known to tread many of the tropes and arcs we’ve seen a thousand times or more. Howard, as Ben, is a likeable kid and we want to see him succeed, survive and find himself as the story progresses. Mallory, played by Piper Curda, is as likeable as Ben, and the two have a cool easy chemistry that never feels forced or bland.

While the story itself isn’t the most original one you’ll find, the way the film jogs along at a nice brisk pace with awesome imagery and a teen-fantasy-horror edge make it impossible to dislike. The dark atmosphere and beautiful looking locations just add to the overall tone. It’s a film that you can enjoy without trying.

An interesting tidbit about Drew and Bret Pierce is that their Dad, Bart, worked on the special effects crew on The Evil Dead, and it shows with the inspired and high-quality effects that we see here. The blood and gore is one thing. It looks good. It’s the witch herself, though, that stands out. The sequences of her clawing her way in and out of the bodies of her hosts in order to take over their bodies are excellently done and look pretty damn creepy.

There are plenty of jump-scares, plenty of gore and lots of unsettling and tense moments that make The Wretched shine as a unique and thoroughly enjoyable horror film, and though it doesn’t end in a way that will please everyone, I thought it worked. Overall, The Wretched impressed me a lot, never dull for the entire 90 minutes, I had a mass of fun with it. I’m curious to see what The Pierce Brothers do next. Wicked.

**** 4/5

The Wretched screened as part of the 2019 Arrow Video Frightfest on Monday August 26th.

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