REVIEW: “THE WRETCHED” (2020) IFC Midnight

“THE WRETCHED” is a lovely looking movie – though this might be an odd thing to say about a horror film.  But take into consideration the fact the budget for this was most probably almost nil, the Pierce Brothers, Brett & Drew do an okay job here. The plot is not revolutionary by any means, but there are some surprises including a nifty twist at the end involving one of the horror cliches that the film uses repeatedly to signify the presence of evil.

Speaking of that plot, it opens with a horror film usual – girl alone gets taken out within it’s first two minutes. Then we switch over to the real point of the plot. We follow a teenage boy Ben (John-Paul Howard) who’s struggling with his parents divorce, and has come to spend some time with his father Liam (Jamison Jones). But life soon gets complicated when he notices something weird going on in the neighbor’s Abbie (Zarah Mahler) & Ty (Kevin Bigley) house with their child Dillon (Blane Crockarell), who seeks out Ben when things start going awry at home. Seems an old, evil demon-style witch has come out the forest to mess around with them. She lives under a tree and has the power to cast a spell on people such that they ‘forget’ about the existence of loved ones around them. From here, everything that can happen – will happen. Love interests, conflicts with town bullies, conflicts with father and his new girlfriend Sara (Azie Tesfai), and other plot lines go exactly where one would expect them to as well.

The characters are not the best ones to get behind and the evil presented by ‘The Wretched’ herself, lacks any real dread or scary-ness. Overall there’s just no real delving in the psychology of what’s happening, fear or mystery. However, amidst this somehow everything works, albeit on a basic level, a kind of a flat line if you will. Performances were okay all around, but some of the characters were given very little to work with. That being said, John-Paul Howard as the central hero Ben and Mallory (Piper Curda) as his summer crush, are very much the standouts here in performances. Cinematography and editing can prompt as much critique, though on the background of all that’s aforementioned, the visual side of things provided some comfort. Always extra appreciation for good practical effects, gore and such which thankfully they didn’t overdo on.  Lastly, the original score was – guess what – a bit on the uninspiring side – but hey limited budget again!

Nicely acted and shot, with decent, practical special effects with some struggles with the story which at times was a bit un-interesting and yes, completely cliche. Still it’s a well-edited mainstream pleaser. There’s a story, and it flows evenly as it entertains, accompanied by a romp of characters, decent gore and cinematography. The problem is, it does so on a surface kind of level. The Pierce brothers utilize a wide selection of familiar, ordinary devices and old tricks, perhaps trying to weave together something new, but ending up just bit on the been there/seen that side. If you’re a fan of spooky, ghost/wraith type horror, it’s entirely possible you might enjoy The Wretched as it’s not so much that it’s not to be disliked, but nor is it something to take much away from.

Grade: C+

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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films & IFC Midnight



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