Updated: Mar 23, 2020
The Wretched, a horror experience red in (very literal) tooth and claw, is one part It, one part The Burbs, and one part The Witch. The Wretched grounds itself in that comfortable 1980’s #horror ambience; masquerading as a coming-of-age movie. But don’t let this lure you into a false sense of security. This is a bloody nasty piece of work and is one of the most genuinely scary and unnerving #horror films I’ve seen for years.
The Wretched wastes no time in setting the mood of the film; in terrifying opening scenes set during the 1980s, we get our first taste of what the film has to offer. Akin to the opening of It (2017), The Wretched, in one fell swoop, firmly establishes its connection to that decade. Fast forward to the present day and teenager Ben (John-Paul Howard) is staying with his father, Liam (Jamison Jones) while his parents are going through a divorce. Ben has all the usual struggles of teenage life: recently divorced parents, demeaning summer job, and the girl he likes doesn’t like him.
It’s the classic coming-of-age tale, and the Pierce brothers have clearly drawn inspiration from the works of #StephenKing; in particular, It. The Wretch (Madelynn Stuenkel in an outstanding performance) is a 1000-year old, child-eating witch...sound vaguely familiar? Familiarities continue with the characters, who are all fairly typical of the genre. This isn’t a particularly good thing, nor is it a complaint; more an observation. But it’s worth noting the performances are all-around superb.
Where The Wretched differs is in its tonality. As a #horror experience, The Wretched surpasses It in almost every way. The Wretch herself strikes a terrifying visage, thanks in no small part to excellent creature design and Stuenkel’s #twisted performance. And Brilliantly #gruesome #practicaleffects (#StephenImhoff) only serve to accentuate the #horror throughout the movie, which, by the way, isn’t afraid of who it kills. Make no mistake, this is a full-blooded, #gory, and occasionally painful to watch, #horror film. Having said that the blood and gore are always justifiable and never unwarranted.
It’s worth noting, however, that the real terror-inducing elements of this film are the excellent #cinematography (#ConorMurphy), superb #sounddesign, and damn near perfect pacing. I genuinely can’t heap enough praise onto the visual and #sounddesign in this movie. It’s stunning, and it’s terrifying, and it works even better on the big screen. And the simmering-pot pace allows the audience an almost unbearable amount of time to stew. Indeed, this is an expertly crafted and #unforgiving #horror movie that builds up the tension and #terror in a fashion mimicking #RobertEggers’, The Witch.
The Wretched was one of the best films I had the pleasure of seeing at #Grimmfest this year, and may well be one of the best #horror experiences I’ve had for a long time. It’s dirty, disgusting, #menacing, nerve-wracking, and unapologetically #cruel. It’s also a brilliantly put-together and stunningly realised piece of #horror #cinema that no true #horror fan should miss. The Wretched plays well on both the big and small screen, but I implore you if you’re able, see it at the #cinema. Just don’t expect to get any sleep for a while afterwards.