“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.” -H.P. Lovecraft
IFC Midnight presents The Wretched, a tale of malignant, perpetual horror. Stories of witchcraft were taken to new heights in 2015 with the unforgettably outrageous, The Witch. Ever since it seems any attempt at the same realm isn’t quite up to par. For myself, The Witch was a practice in perfecting the psychological horror by attacking the one thing we all hold dear, our family. Much the same can be said for what is now my favorite horror film, Hereditary, a family drama so unimaginable it rests comfortably in the worlds of both drama and horror. The Wretched, while not as effective as those previously mentioned, still maintains the theme of tearing a family apart for no reason beyond the evil intent residing within the living corpse of an unholy witch.
Where The Witch and Hereditary took on a more mind altering route, The Wretched goes for the jugular in a much more visceral assault. Featuring some fantastic practical effects the witch seen in many transitional moments is grotesque and hard to shake off even when her current form is that of a sexy female neighbor appearing to simply raise her family. In a situation where no one wins, the neighbor boy Ben discovers her deep dark secret and begins to pry creating unwanted attention in his own direction. She sees all and knows Ben is a troublemaker leading himself down a lonely, sinister path with little chance of return. She is aware and she is on the prowl.
This particular witchy yarn, while strong in moments, as a whole doesn’t quite stick the landing. It feels predictable at times, never really taking us in a direction that feels unique. In terms of physical horror it can be pretty damn severe. The sounds of creaking, snapping bones as the wretch shifts and contorts herself is unnerving. Several people take on the role of the wretch as she changes her appearance but one of the actors by the name of Zarah Mahler is particularly wicked with big, emotionless eyes staring into the soul of her prey. Her beauty is her tool and uses it to infiltrate the homes of her newest victims. From there it becomes a waking nightmare of loss and distrust with a heaping of body horror to go along with it.
The Wretched is a physical horror with elements of uncertainty thrown in only adding to the madness. As Ben, John-Paul Howard leads a cast of mostly unknowns with a real sense of when to pursue, when to cower, and when to accept that fate has dealt them all a losing hand. One thing I’ve always enjoyed is when a scary movie lulls its audience into a place of complacency or even victory only to rip the proverbial rug right out from under us. The ending of The Descent is a prime example of that light at the end of the tunnel being taken away like a last breath of relief before reality of another kind takes over. I leave that topic right where it’s at and let you discover it for yourself should you have any interest in watching something as far removed from hope as The Wretched can take us.
Again, this is a movie that has its moments of fantastic dementedness but fails to make it all feel that fresh or worthy of being called a classic. But it’s also a good bit of fun, a solid B horror if you will. Basically what you see in the trailer is what you get but with less force than it would lead you to believe. I’ve seen movies that have left me upset for simply wasting my time and I can say The Wretched is far from it, finding the entertaining quality in an otherwise near complete retread of the witchcraft subgenre. Enjoy it for the visual grit it provides and forgive it for the rehash that comprises just enough of the story to keep it all from being something great.
Unrated: Has scenes featuring blood, gore, violence, strong language and drinking, all involving teens
Runtime: 95 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Zarah Mahler, Jamison Jones
Directed By: Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 3/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: I would say Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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