Halloween Month Review: The Wretched (2020)
This is homage without feeling... but you can do a lot worse with your night.
A troubled teenager Ben (John-Paul Howard) comes to stay with his father Liam (Jamison Jones) near a marina and encounters an ancient witch lurking about. That's the simple premise that filmmakers Brett and Drew Pierce (collectively known and credited here as The Pierce Brothers) have. The brothers are eager to inform the audience that they love horror. There are nods from Fright Night to The Thing and even quotes from Jaws - films that were successful genre films and were also lovingly detailed and psychological thorny.
The Wretched eschews such complexity and goes for style and atmosphere where it succeeds. It is eerie and atmospheric. But its suspense is sapped considerably by the director duo's evasion to deal with emotional complexities. So much so that a great twist at the end does not come with as much devastation as it should have, leave alone as much clarity. The prologue of the film after which the story goes "Five Days Back" does not make much sense either.
Then there is the question of the witch itself.
The directors are satisfied with dishing out some great effects but it's as if they forgot to build any details about the witch itself that acts in a rather inconsistent manner. There is no explanation of its existence or the sign that keeps cropping up throughout (see poster below).
If they had only spent some time fleshing out the details of the characters, their emotions and yes, the mythos they are going for, this could have been great. Howard and Jones share an easy chemistry that remains unmined.
Still, as far as I am concerned, this has not been a great year for horror and there are worse ways to while away your evenings than watch this intermittently chilling and (merely) competent film.