The 400-Word Review: The Wretched
By Sean Collier
April 30, 2020
Certain things are always true in the movies: The multinational corporation will not realize the folly of their hubris until a dinosaur is eating the CEO; A love-at-first-sight meeting will always be interrupted by an intoxicated friend; And the sudden appearance of a monster, maniac or other ghoul will always be noticed only by a troubled teenager whom no one else believes.
In the case of “The Wretched,” a serviceable shocker from IFC Films, that teen is Ben (John-Paul Howard), a sullen youth summering at his father’s lakeside home. He had a spot of trouble at mom’s house involving stolen pills and a broken arm, and the family is hoping a sun-soaked summer toiling at dad’s marina will straighten him out.
Unfortunately, there’s a nasty witch hanging around this anonymous small town. The mayhem starts with bumps in the night and some odd behavior from the hipster neighbor (Zarah Mahler) before swiftly transitioning to a tally of supernatural goings-on. The most concerning: Nearby children keep disappearing, and their family members are developing a curious strain of amnesia that convinces them they never had kids to begin with.
“The Wretched” is a sophomore effort written and directed by brothers and horror journeymen Brett and Drew T. Pierce. They’re clever with premises — their inaugural feature, “Deadheads,” was a rare fresh angle on the zombie genre, and “The Wretched” contains a few surprising twists — but is less skilled at character building. Ben isn’t particularly likable, and not realistically so; you’ll find yourself wondering why anyone, least of all charming love interest Mallory (Piper Curda), gives him the time of day.
Their world isn’t particularly well crafted, either. A setting that might’ve been its own character in many pictures is unremarkable here. Fortunately, the brothers are more skilled behind the camera; in pacing and tone, “The Wretched” is effective, with a compelling air of mystery.
IFC is pushing “The Wretched” as a drive-in pick, offering it in a double feature (with “The True History of the Kelly Gang”) to the handful of outdoor cinemas operating during the pandemic. For those purposes, it’s a winner. Uncomplicated, watchable spookshows have always done well al fresco, and those audiences fortunate enough to have a drive-in to escape to during the shutdown will likely have fond memories of a trip to see “The Wretched.” The mileage of at-home viewers will vary, but it’s a perfectly acceptable diversion.
My Rating: 6/10
“The Wretched” is available via digital on-demand services Friday and will be screened at select cinemas.