This is a repost of our review from Fantasia Festival 2019. The Wretched opens on VOD platforms Friday.
Blending concepts from Fright Night and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Brett and Drew T. Pierce’s The Wretched is a fun creature feature with a few interesting hooks and some excellent effects work. Although it stumbles a bit at the end, there’s still a lot to like about this gory thriller.
John-Paul Howard plays Ben, a bratty teenager whose parents’ impending divorce leaves him in a rebellious and, one might say, dick-ish state. He’s spending the summer with his dad, working at the local marina, but after some strange events begin happening at his neighbors’ house, Ben starts to think there’s something supernatural afoot.
As it turns out, the young mother who lives next door, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), brought home a deer carcass after hitting it on the road, but there was more than venison on the inside. A witch who is hellbent on devouring the souls children was hiding inside the deer, and after escaping her cocoon, makes her new home inside Abbie’s body and begins corrupting the minds of those around her. The intrepid young Ben begins to unravel this fiendish plot even though no one believes him.
With elements of light comedy with horror, The Wretched undoubtedly shares similarities with the horror classic Fright Night, , but The Wretched leans more heavily into the horror side of things, presenting a number of skin-crawling moments punctuated with top-notch practical effects and disturbing sound design to ratchet up the fear as Ben sleuths out the cause of these strange occurrences. In case the audience forgets that this witch is wearing a person as a skin suit, the Pierce brothers are quick to remind us by showing off some very unsettling sequences.
Aside from Ben being an inherently unlikable protagonist, the setup is well executed, slowly parceling out the scares as the witch grows in power, inching closer to her end goal. Ample time is spent building Ben as a character as well as establishing the quaint little town the film is set in, allowing us to understand the stakes once the shit hits the fan.
This is when the film falters a bit and devolves from an intriguing, low-key supernatural thriller to a more standard and bombastic horror title. Indeed, there are some satisfying turns along the way, but the finale left a little to be desired.
Still, The Wretched is a surprising delight, which doesn’t skimp on some great creature effects and fun, sometimes shocking moments that make this a memorable endeavor that I can easily recommend giving a look.