The Wretched (2019)

The Wretched
Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Writer: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Cast: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley
Seen on: 19.8.2020

Content Note: misogyny

Ben (John-Paul Howard) is supposed to work with his father Liam (Jamison Jones) over the summer. Liam is the harbor master in a town filled with tourists – like the people renting the house next door, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), her partner Ty (Kevin Bigley) and their two children. One night, Ben sees something weird going on at their place and the only one who even indulges the thought that he might be on to something is his co-worker Mallory (Piper Curda). But even she isn’t convinced that there is actually a witch in the house next door as Ben suspects.

The Wretched has one clever idea, but otherwise isn’t particularly interesting or brings much to the table that we haven’t seen before.

The film poster showing a woman with flaking skin hiding behind a deer skull.

The Wretched tells a familiar tale and taps into the 80s nostalgia feeling – without actually being set in the 80s. This means that the film feels already a little outdated before it even really gets going. Some might find this endearing, to me it just felt like they didn’t actually have anything to say, so they said stuff other people already said – and better. Not particularly interesting.

There is one twist in the middle of the film that is actually pretty cleverly made, but that isn’t enough to really get the film off the ground. Especially since most of the film is built on (more or less latent) misogyny: a witch going after children and who can take over any body – but only takes over women (making all women automatically suspect)? And who immediately dresses the more tomboyish Abbie in flowery dresses as soon as she takes her over (making femininity a sign of evil)? Let’s think about this a little more, huh.

Ben (John-Paul Howard) investigating his neighbors' cellar.

Ironically, it is exactly the female characters and the actors portraying them who manage to stand out. Piper Curda rules the film whenever she is on screen, and sometimes even when she isn’t; and Zarah Mahler obviously has fun and gives Abbie (as Abbie and not the witch) a lot more character than the script probably intended.

The Wretched isn’t a catastrophe, but it probably wasn’t worth paying the ticket price for. For that there just isn’t enough to it that is actually worth seeing.

Mallory (Piper Curda) in the woods at night.

Summarizing: a little tired.

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