I don’t understand why studios like IFC don’t take more chances on independent horror movies. They’re usually cheap and are the types of films where you can take a few more risks. If done correctly, these movies can be appealing, memorable, and easily recommendable even if they don’t garner the type of audience that they should. And in my opinion, I think that’s where The Wretched will end up standing now that it’s been released.
After his parents’ separation, Ben (John-Paul Howard) is sent to live with his father for the summer in an idyllic tourist town. As he attempts to adjust to life here, a malevolent spirit that he believes is rummaging around the house next door makes a seamless transition literally impossible. With several suspicious things taking place and going unheeded, the teenager takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
One feature that I didn’t anticipate being impressed by in The Wretched was the cinematography. Horror films don’t generally require a ton of effort in this area, but that doesn’t stop these guys from using some high-quality camera work. For me personally, this made what I was watching quite an experience even though that’s not what anyone is watching this for.
I also found myself liking many of the characters. This movie is filled with people who are full of personality and are made to keep you engaged with what’s going on right from the beginning. Characters who can hold your attention are important here since it takes a while to get The Wretched where it needs to be in terms of story and potential scares.
This leads me to talk about one of the few issues that some may have with this picture. Since there is kind of a slow build in the early going, the pacing may be off for some since there isn’t much going on in the first act as far as horror is concerned. While we wait, we follow the characters as the creators are busy setting things up and giving us a chance to find out who these people are. If you like the people here, this might make it easier to get into this portion of the movie.
While this approach could be seen as a negative in the eyes of some, one of the characters that benefit from this happens to be the film’s antagonist. Instead of just presenting us with a full picture of the villain right away, Drew and Brett Pierce (the filmmakers) take some time to build the threat over the course of the movie. Because of this, it almost feels as if there are two different stories being told at once that eventually begin to merge into one.
And once that happens, things begin to truly pick up and move at the kind of pace you’d expect. As that’s happening, we’re still getting the development of the villain who’s eventually going to go head-to-head with our lead characters. Because of this, the aspect of world-building is always present and continuously assisting in making this something you want to keep your eyes on.
Another benefit from this structure is that by not getting into too many details about the antagonist or its abilities too early, the film has the opportunity to do different things and expand on what the character is capable of. And while they offer details on who the villain is in the official synopsis, I don’t recall them ever going into specifics in the film itself. By not doing so, it gives the filmmakers the ability to play around with what they have while not needing to worry about whether or not things make complete sense.
Of course, this adds to the suspense and intrigue while watching since you don’t have a clear idea of everything that the villain is capable of. This allows The Wretched to always feel fresh and captivating. That’s impressive in my opinion since there are also elements from films that we’ve seen before (some not necessarily from the horror genre) that may be obvious to at least some viewers.
Even though my experience with The Wretched was mostly positive, I didn’t find this particular horror movie to what I would consider scary. Although it fits into the horror genre, it’s carried more by the mystery elements, the suspense, and it’s engaging characters. All of this combines to make you want to keep watching as you try to find out what happens next. And because of this, I think most will reach the film’s conclusion feeling satisfied with what they get.
You’ll leave this movie knowing there are a number of other things that could be done in a sequel, but I doubt we’ll ever get one. That’s mostly due to the time of its release and the lack of fanfare that it will get. However, even if we don’t get anything connected to this, I’d like to see what else the Pierce brothers can come up with in the future. Based on this movie alone, they seem to have some ideas that look to be worth paying attention to.
Film Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: May 1, 2020 (VOD and Various Drive-Ins across America)
Digital VOD Platforms:
iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vudu, PlayStation, Xbox
Cable VOD Platforms:
Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner, Brighthouse), Verizon Fios, Altice (Optimum), Cox, DirecTV, AT&T, Bend Broadband, Buckeye, Guadalupe Valley, Hotwire Communications, Metrocast, Suddenlink, WOW Internet Cable, RCN, Midcontinent Communications
Distributor: IFC Midnight
- Score - 7/107/10