The Wretched Movie Review
A teen battles a 1,000-year-old witch in The Wretched, a creepy little horror film that can’t quite escape its direct-to-video trappings. Nevertheless, a likable cast and chilling creature design makes the film worth it for those craving some new terror in their lives, because who isn’t these days?
John-Paul Howard headlines the film as Ben, who is sent to live with his dad for the summer only to encounter a bunch of stereotypical jocks who like to pick on him, because apparently that’s still a thing in quaint summer towns, and a neighbor who has become possessed by a super nasty looking witch.
Howard makes for an engaging if straightforward protagonist, and the same can be said for the rest of the cast. The Wretched isn’t high-pedigree horror--no one is going to win any awards for this production--but the cast have good chemistry and are clearly having fun with the material.
Writing-directing duo Brett and Drew Pierce, too, take a straightforward approach to the movie. The story holds a lot of promise, though it seems limited by the linear writing and lack of consistent ambience. The movie, at only 95 minutes, is fast paced and consistently entertaining; even still, it would have benefited from some further tightening, not for pace but for momentum. Had the Pierces kept their eyes on the ball--Zarah Mahler is downright frightening in the moments given to her--they could have made a terrifying film. So why not expand the horror stretches and cut the cliche shit like the jock bullies? Something spooky happens, and then the movie backs off. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
The frustrating thing is, when The Wretched gets into horror mode, it works. It would have been great to see more of Mahler and Howard squaring off; Mahler plays sinister and creepy well, but just isn’t given much screen time. And the creature (er, witch) design by a man who has the best first name and the worst last name, Erik Porn, and team is downright disturbing.
The Wretched has a lot going for it--any horror movie that involves child chewing should by default--but it can never quite shake its direct-to-VOD vibe. Horror fans may find enough to feast on, but it’s far from essential cinema.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.