As a second feature release for Writing and Directing duo Brett and Drew T. Pierce (The Pierce Brothers), with their first being 2011’s Deadheads, IFC Midnight’s The Wretched is a well-paced, sharp, and entertaining horror film that, despite its noticeably low-budget, manages to create an atmosphere full of tension and a surprising amount of world-building. With a strong cast, an interesting score, and an effective use of practical effects, The Wretched has fun with the resources it is given and presents itself as a mature adventure, albeit campy at times, that is reminiscent of the “freak-show” horror genre that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
Following witness to his parents difficult divorce, young Ben (John-Paul Howard), an awkward seventeen-year old, finds himself working at a marina with his father, Liam (Jamison Jones), during the summer break. It is here in this small town that Ben begins to suspect a dark and sinister reality from his neighbor’s family, specifically the wife, Abbie (Zarah Mahler). Once citizens begin to rapidly disappear from the town it becomes clear that action must be taken, however, with nobody believe him of the incidents and his paranoia being passed over as being on drugs, Ben is trapped having to force change to take place before his neighbors, and potential the entire town, is consumed by a looming darkness.
The Pierce Brothers utilize themes of paranoia and fear as the films greatest strength, the Hitchcock-ian style of always being watched or “played with” is integrated with lore that feels more fantasy over horror definitely helps The Wretched become distinct. The viewers are never given the opportunity to fully see this evil, or in this case a Witch, instead we are given visual cues from the atmosphere and settings from within the town that allow the feeling of dread to embrace the thematic of the film. This especially takes place when Abbie begins to feel the effects of the Witch.
Spoiler Review To Follow.
Score: 7 / 10.
In theaters, cable VOD and rental on digital platforms May 1st.