The Wretched is a solid gateway horror with one big surprise and an overall generic feel.
The Wretched is a supernatural horror film that will mostly speak to a young adult audience, while the main character is 17 and we follow him and experience everything through his eyes. The horror can be quite gruesome, although not shown explicitly, the suggestion of gory horror is definitely there, which makes it a great gateway horror for 16 year-olds and up. The themes also will speak to young adults and will may be less interesting for adults, due to the way they are handled. Nevertheless The Wretched is a solid, albeit a somewhat generic horror with a twist surprise at the end and a horrifying witch.
17 Year-old Ben is visiting his father Liam in Michigan after his parents got divorced. He works for his father at the Marina that summer and he meets Mallory whom he befriends. Next door a family consisting of Abbie, Ty their son Dillon and baby Sam has rented the house for the summer. After Abbie and Dillon hiked through the woods and Dillon saw an ancient grey tree, Abbie gets possessed by a witch.
The next day Dillon hides from his mother in Ben’s house and a few days later Dillon is missing and Ty denies they have children, which makes Ben suspicious of Abbie. He thinks she’s a witch who feasts upon the forgotten and hides in the skin of the mother. But nobody believes him, not even Mallory, even if her little sister Lily goes missing whom she does not remember. It’s up to Ben to deal with his father’s new girlfriend Sara, find Lily and Dillon and defeat the witch.
Why you should watch it
The Wretched is a little confusing due to a mixed tone that handles teen anxieties, with a teenage boy as the main character and told from his point of view, teenage themes like divorce and not being taken seriously, and teen romance, while it also has some very gruesome scenes that won’t necessarily be suitable for a younger audience. This film will therefore be most enjoyable for teens from 16 and up and will serve as a great gateway horror.
For adults this film will be too cliche, with many well-known horror tropes and too much emphasis on teenager Ben. His point of view and character stay a little bit too superficial to make themes like divorce interesting and they don’t therefore result in an in-depth look within his mind.
The film starts off too generic and doesn’t create an original or intriguing vibe. When the witch shows up, she is shaped in a scary way, but also not that creative, except maybe for the literal skin crawling horror. The story, the witch and the horror is nothing you haven’t seen before, which would be okay if the storytelling was interesting enough and if something new and fresh was added to the familiar horror tropes.
Instead the storytelling was cliche and unimaginative and a bit tedious. To show how teenagers spent their evenings always drinking and partying and never get really drunk, shows a very narrow-minded view and cliched take on how adults think teenagers behave. There are so many different teenagers with different behaviors that this gives a wrong image of teenagers and a wrong and unrealistic example.
That said, the film has some gruesome horror moments to offer, with a twist at the end, that some will see coming. From the start of the film, there’s a feeling that something is missing in this familiar setting and structure, and that feeling is correct. Although this twist is a nice one, it is debatable if it’s executed in the right way, misleading the audience in a certain way, while being consistent or not.
The Wretched comes best to its own if you regard it as a dark fairytale, instead of a horror. Then the themes, the twist and Ben are more effective. This is mostly tangible at the end, but it would have been great if that whole dark fairytale vibe would have been more prominent throughout the whole film, focusing even more on Ben telling a compelling story about teenage anxieties that should be taken seriously, just as Ben’s suspicions about the supernatural evil witch.
My favorite part
When the witch slowly infects the lives of Abbie’s family and Ben discovers something weird, that’s when the most tensed atmosphere is created and results in a fine horror vibe. But that vibe is only sparsely used throughout the film and doesn’t manage to keep that creepy feel. Ben’s ordinary character without something interesting and his endeavors to find Dillon and debunk the witch are too standard to stand out as a great original horror. This is partially made up for at the end of the film with a big twist and the creepy struggles underneath the witch tree, therefore turning the story somewhat more into a dark fairytale.
Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★☆☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★☆☆
Cast and crew
The Wretched is directed and written by Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce. It stars John-Paul Howard (Ben), Piper Curda (Mallory), Zarah Mahler (Abbie), Kevin Bigley (Ty), Blane Crockarell (Dillon), Jamison Jones (Liam) and Azie Tesfai (Sara).
Duration: 96 minutes. Music: Devin Burrows. Cinematography: Conor Murphy. Edited by: Terry Yates. Produced by: Chang Tseng, Ed Polgardy, Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce. Production company: Little Runway. Distributed by: IFC Midnight.