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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Review: The Wretched

Director: Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce
Screenplay: Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce
Year: 2020

IFC Films has won a special place among horror cinema fans because of the good productions they constantly put out at our disposal. Movies such as “The Wind”, “I Trapped The Devil” or “Swallow” are some recent examples that support this argument, although they are also behind other not so great movies like “The Other Lamb”. Something that distinguishes this production house is the atmosphere of its movies, a trait it shares with the production company A24.

Ben is a teenager that goes to live with his father after being distant for some time. His parents’ divorce has caused him to develop behavioral issues, which leads to no one trusting him when he starts suspecting the actions of his neighbor. After monitoring her for a while, Ben comes to the conclusion that his neighbor is an old witch that feeds on children. 

The initial scene of "The Wretched" puts the viewer in perspective of what this witch is and exposes its best attributes, although this scene has no importance to the plot and exposing the witch so early harms the suspense. However, the scene is useful for exposing other attributes, such as the great special effects, mostly practical, the atmosphere, and the great song selection and original score. It also gets to show many of the witch's characteristics and the mythos around her in just a few seconds of runtime. 

From this scene, we jump 35 years into the future until landing in what must be the present time and we meet the protagonist Ben, interpreted by John-Paul Howard (“Midnight Texas”). There are characters that can make or break a movie, and Ben and how he is developed is one of those characters that significantly harm the quality of the movie. Luckily, "The Wretched" has many other virtues that keep it afloat and makes the whole thing an enjoyable experience 

The acting is not even close to posing among its positive qualities, but the main issue with the character comes from how they are worked out in the script from also directors Brett Pierce y Drew T. Pierce (“Dead Heads”). Particularly Ben's character, who we follow for most of the movie, is presented as an unbearable prick and makes it hard that one can care about him. On top of that, the scenes where this bad trait is highlighted are unnecessary scenes that could be eliminated from the movie with no effect on the plot, and they greatly harm the main character.

Up until now, it may sound like I did not enjoy the movie, but nothing further from reality. “The Wretched” creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and develops an interesting story from the beginning that is slowly paving the way towards the third act where it shows off with the special effects and a completely unexpected turn. The mythos around the witch, her traits, and her design are spectacular and manage to send chills down the back of even the bravest. 

“The Wretched” has been promoted with fanfare and, while it is a good horror movie, it falls short of reaching that contemporary classic level for what it's being pushed for. It is hard to get interested in the main character, the editing in some parts is erratic and incoherent and has a few unnecessary scenes, but the mystery around the witch, the special effects, and how she is developed and interpreted overpowers the issues it has. The movie creates a good atmosphere from the start, a well-defined personality, and plenty of potential, but always feels like there is something missing for it to break through the limit if just being a good horror movie.

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