Director: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Cast: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: NC16 (Horror & Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 13 August 2020
Synopsis: A rebellious teenage boy, Ben, visiting his father for the summer makes a haunting discovery -- A malevolent fiend from the deep woods stalks the young family living next door. Taking ahold of the mother, the creature begins playing a terrifying game of house while preying upon the local children. Alone in his suspicions, Ben launches into a perilous crusade to stop the wretched evil before it consumes everything he holds dear.
At first glance, there may be more than a whiff of familiarity about ‘The Wretched’.
The premise of something suspicious going down in a neighbour’s house feels like it was ripped from ‘Disturbia’, and the scenes of watching the couple in the property getting it on in their bedroom with a pair of binoculars seems right out of ‘Rear Window’.
Concomitantly, the idea of a demon who has taken root (we mean this as literally as you can imagine) in a small seaside community and takes over the bodies of its victims sounds like it was taken from a number of ‘80s body horror films.
Yet, despite the familiar set-up, this sophomore effort from sibling directors Brett and Drew Pierce (who go by “the Pierce brothers”) is a lean and effective genre exercise, fusing borrowed formulas into a fun creature horror with a number of standout sequences.
The story follows teenager Ben (John-Paul Howard), who has come up to spend the summer living and working for his dad at the marina. Right from the beginning, Ben is curious about the hipster couple renting the house next door, and he is further piqued when he glances a hideous-looking creature on their porch one evening. That creature ends up taking hold of the woman Abbie, which terrifies her grade-school-aged son Dillon (Blane Crockarell).
At first, Ben’s key interest is to protect Dillon, but when the latter disappears after being led into the woods by Abbie, Ben sets out to find out just what evil lies beneath his neighbour’s dwelling. That will soon set him on a race against time to save other children from suffering the same fate, including fellow marina co-worker Mallory’s (Piper Curada) younger sister Lily (Ja’layah Washington).
In just over one-and-a-half hours, the movie unfolds at a brisk pace, building gradually towards an exciting finish that sees almost everyone involved – from Ben’s dad Liam (Jamison Jones), to his girlfriend Sera (Azie Tespai) and even the local police – swept up in the malevolence. True to its title, the finale reveals just what happens to the victims which are dragged into the ground by the hag-like witch, trapped in a tangle of roots and dirt with memories of their existence erased.
To their credit, the Pierce brothers hardly resort to a cheap jump scare, relying instead on good old-fashioned suspense to keep you hooked. Even though its elements may be derivative, there is polish in the execution, ably assisted by Conor Murphy’s creepily effective camerawork and Devin Burrows’ unsettling score. You’ll appreciate too the eerie epilogue that suggests the worst ain’t yet over, teasing a sequel that you’ll find yourself excited to see.
So even though it is indebted to Hitchcock, Spielberg and ‘80s horror such as ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, ‘The Wretched’ is an intriguing horror that grows more riveting as it reveals more and more of the terror bewitching the inhabitants of the sleepy seaside town. It may be familiar, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the ride with its twists, chills and atmosphere.
(Fashioned out of familiar elements, this creature horror is nonetheless a fun and frightful genre exercise that relies on good old-fashioned atmosphere and suspense to keep you hooked)
Review by Gabriel Chong