A teen boy taking on a thousand year old witch who eats children? That’s right up my alley – good old school horror with a modern touch. So when the family wanted to do a horror night, we just had to read the description of the 2019 film “Wretched” on Amazon Prime to settle the winning title.
Directors Brett Pierce and Drew Pierce do an interesting job with the story that’s set somewhere in the U.S, since it’s never explicitly mentioned where, which sort of works in favor of the plot. Our hero is teen boy Ben Shaw who moves with his father and notices something off about the neighbouring family – the mother seems possessed. Doesn’t take him too long to figure out she is a demon who feeds on kids.
The good thing about this film is that the pace is quite stable, neither too slow, nor too fast; but not enough happens to create dread or truly spook the viewer. However, for those who have low tolerance for gore – they’ll find themselves flinching with discomfort multiple times. A little more action would have greatly benefited the plot. Also, why do people walk super-freaking slowly or waste time in needless actions when something needs to be urgently done? WHY? Such scenes are so annoying. I am trying to keep the review spoiler free, so I won’t give examples. But if you are a horror/thriller fanatic, you know what I mean.
John-Paul Howard who plays Ben does a fantastic job as the angsty teen who is trying to deal with his parents’ divorce, but despite his issues at home, he is a caring boy who looks out for the kids’ next door. Howard delivers the duality of his role quite well.
The special effects in this film is minimal but great, at no point did anything seem laughable or fake. Even the general cinematography is pleasing to the eye, the juxtaposition of gloomy houses/haunted forests with the scenes of a beautiful blue bright marina when Ben’s father works made for an interesting clash of moods. I’ve often complained of how some directors unnecessarily makes everything dark or give every scene a red tint to kind of create a depressing effect, which is just jarring to the eye.
The real challenge for the horror genre lies in making things scary in normal surroundings. The Pierce brothers’ don’t shy away from showing the evil witch snatching children away in broad daylight. Some more sinister scenes might have elevated this film to horror greatness. “The Wretched” might not keep you up at night, it might not scare you at all, but it makes for a fun watch.
And here’s some trivia that I stumbled upon when I was reading up on the movie after I finished watching it – “The Wretched” became one of the most watched films in the U.S in 2020 earlier this year, when it played in several drive-in theaters across the nation. According to a Forbes article, this low budget film made box office history of sorts by becoming one of only five films to stay on the number 1. spot for five consecutive weeks. The pandemic obviously had a large role to play in this feat, since a lot of big budget highly anticipated films pushed their release dates, leaving smaller films with lesser competition. But it’s still a pretty cool achievement for the makers.