Young Ben decamps to the care of his father at his small marina, after a botched Vicadol theft leaves him with a broken arm. Before Ben can gain a foothold in the local community, he notices the suspicious happenings of the family next door. However, when he goes full Rear Window on them, he wins the attention of an ancient, child scoffing, memory wiping witch. Can he convince those around him of the evil hags existence, before she literally gets under his skin?
The pierce brothers return to the horror fold with a pacy and likeable body jacking chiller, that knows its audience, if not its own limitations.
After the seemingly obligatory, and grim, flashback opening scene, The Wretched settles into an entertaining stride of character development and creepy imagery. The protagonists are well written and economically fleshed out with Ben’s new love interest, and fearless bear poker, Mallory, the strongest among them. The nightmarish creature is a shadowy, spindly fingered fucker, that will certainly put the willies up you more than once, and the industrious sound design is top tier. These accomplished building blocks form the solid foundations on which the impending terror is built.
The steady progression of the picture is very well handled, mixing just the right amount of escalation, with frustration inducing, “who will believe me?” shenanigans. That being said, if you are laying down necromantic defence lines with winter salt, it’s probably time to make your suppositions a wider concern.
There are other issues that hamper the film as a totally effective fright flick. The concept is a tad derivative, without being plagiaristic, and some of the tropes are, quite frankly, oversubscribed in the genre. Can we please cease the trend of scratched out faces on photographs as a plot signifier? It was cliched enough before digitisation, now it’s just a lazy crowbarring device. There are also a few missed opportunities spawned by the excellent establishing process. I for one would have liked to see the town’s serial penis size insulter and multi-purpose douche adapter get his comeuppance.
Despite these flaws, the film’s sense of fun and the sheer panache of its realisation carry it through thus far. Credit should also be given to the visionary way in which the malignant interloper initiates her infiltration. It really is quite brilliant, both in its simplicity and delivery.
The Wretched reaches a defining moment just before the final straight. This will either prove an immovable narrative roadblock or a revelatory game changer, depending on your predisposition to frenetic information dumps. It is indeed a lot to take in, and it fires a scattergun point-blank at the fabric of the narrative. Yet, I found the resulting smoking plot holes a small price to pay for such an audacious rug pull.
This is a lovingly made midnight flick, with impeccable technical credentials, that will find a worthy home in many a horror addicts collection. It cares far more about being entertaining than standing up to the scrutiny of logic, and to that end, it will please genre fans.
Horror | USA, 2019 | 18 | Digital HD | 8th May 2020 (UK) | Vertigo Releasing | Dir: Brett Pierce & Drew T. Pierce | John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones | Pre-Order/Order Here
This review was originally posted as part of our Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 Coverage: Original review here