Ol’ Ben (John-Paul Howard) is travelling the bumpy-ass road of adolescence and seemingly hitting every pothole; to wit: his parents are separated, he has no wheels, and he’s busting ass working a lame job at the local marina… oh, and he has to deal with being the only one that knows some ancient evil or other (specifically the kind of wicked witch that crawls full-born from the carcass of a deer… as is usually the case, amirite?) has gotten it’s hooks into the metal A.F., MILF, next door neighbor Abbie (Zarah Mahler)… putting her family, and everyone else truth be told, in preternatural peril!
Look dude, we’ve all seen this one before; you get the “kid” no one believes witnessing someone being turned evil (whether it’s aliens, demons, witches… that’s all ghoulish gravy baby), yet no one swallows the seemingly insane yarn… which of course turns out to be terrifyingly true… but I’ll be damned if The Wretched (or more precisely, writing/directing siblings Brett and Drew T. Pierce) doesn’t have serious fun with those tropes!
The mythology behind the flicks menacing monster and her arcane abilities is fun and well defined, and Mahler does a bang-up job of going from loving mother figure to demonic hell-spawn convincingly, and the effects (mostly practical at that) are incredibly well done, especially in the reveal of the creature at hand… all of which are crucial to the success of this kind of putrid picture!
Adding to the positives are the fine folks playing our youthful heroes, with Howard providing a sympathetic and engaging performance that actually makes us give a damn whether he survives the outre ordeal or not, and Piper Curda giving us a fun turn as Mallory; an upbeat counterpoint to Ben’s growing anxiety. It can’t be stressed enough how important characters you actually like and can root for are to the success of a slice of horror biz keeping your attention!
Additional shout out to composer Devin Burrows who provides a score that perfectly compliments the film’s moods while delving into 80’s electronic pop, highly-effective string arrangements, and ambient sounds all with equal aplomb!
Speaking of Burrows, this Blu-ray release features a commentary track featuring the composer discussing how that aforementioned score came to be in great detail. Not to be outdone, the Pierce Brothers also have a commentary track that covers the film’s production in a lively and good-natured conversation.
And just for shits, the film’s trailer is included here as well!
If you cats n’ creeps are seekin’ solid creature feature thrills, The Wretched will no doubt satisfy; solid acting, a brisk pace, and most importantly killer effects work make this one a wicked winner in my beastly book!