Brett and Drew T. Pierce may be the new writer/director duo to look out for in the following decade. An already impressive resume with the 2011 comedy horror indie hit, Deadheads, The brothers bring their talents to much darker, and yet equally surprising horror in The Wretched.
From the low angles and excellent color contrast from Conor Murphy and his team, along with strong performances, particularly in the main protagonist, Ben, played by John Paul Howard, The Wretched should churn a number of cult followers as it easily pleases those looking for a satisfying and tense thrill while at home this Spring.
As mentioned in my previous Spoiler-Free review, The Wretched remarks itself as a standalone tale whilst smoothly integrating references and nods audiences had become accustomed to from Eighties and Nineties horror adventure films. These references become easily apparent once you familiarize yourself with the surroundings; a marina homage Jaws and The Fog, and a dark forest setting accentuate those nostalgic feelings of The Evil Dead and The Witch without falling too far victim to classic tropes, however a few of these become less subtle and more of a running joke on Spielberg and Scott in “chestbursts” and wild toys. There are the classic “spoiled” bullies, a trope that sees more popularity now than the “jock” bullies of previous decades, and Ben’s struggles to fit in with the towns social normalities, however once those early portions of the film are over, The Wretched becomes free to be on it’s own as a film, and you can tell The Pierce Brothers had fun with it.
A refreshing amount of believability and care is brought forth into this world that The Pierce Brothers have crafted, and it begins and ends with it’s character performances. As suggested, John-Paul Howard’s portrayal of Ben is very likely the standout, the character may be designed as awkward or boring, yet Howard takes his time with the character and gets the audience to follow him and his curiosity into dangerous situations and he then becomes a character you want to see succeed. There is a particular scene late in the film where Ben is placed in the back of police vehicle, and as he desperately attests the presence of the witch you can really see the acting talents come out to shine from the young actor.
The biggest and most impressive highlight for the film has to be the reveal of the witch. From the opening sequences of the film showing the decay of life in flowers and the devouring of an infant child, you are well aware and tense that this witch carries a darker force seen in the more common witch movies of today. The gruesome slime, and effectively gory sound effects gives this witch a greater feeling of brutality and benevolence that, sadly, I would have loved to see more of. That being said, the tension and filmmaking display that The Pierce Brothers put on is not to be put down as they do an excellent job creating a new evil with a solid protagonist that helps The Wretched wiggle out from the crowd of indie horror. Ben’s neighbor, Sara (Azie Tesfai) is brilliantly given time to excel at a creppy role and the presence of the witch’s control only amplifies her performance.
The problematic issues come during the final twists, and while The Pierce Brothers managed to convey admirable turns in the latter half of the film, it is the moment when the witch’s powers cease to have an affect on Ben and thus halts any, now nuanced, tension. This can be similarly said for the ending, foreshadowing of a flower gifted to Ben, and a foreboding final shot of Mallory floating out towards the lake with boat full of children ready to consumed. It is tense and creepy close to the film, yet leaves your head scratching as to the plausibility of the witch’s survival.
Those small issues aside, The Wretched is a praised sophomore effort by Brett and Drew T. Pierce that should open many possibilities to see their work exceed. If they are gifted with the same, or similar cast and crew that they had with this film than you can be sure to look forward to many other indie passion projects such as this.
Score: 7 / 10.