Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Directors: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Studio: Cailleach Productions
Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10
A teenage boy coming to grips with his parents impending divorce faces off with a thousand-year-old witch posing as the woman living next door.
So Ben (John-Paul Howard) isn’t doing terribly well. His arms in a cast, his folks are getting a divorce, and he’s been sent to live with his lackluster father. Liam (Jamison Jones) in theory wants him around, but in reality as soon as Ben arrives, fobs him off to a summer job at the marina. Sure there are other teenagers who work there too, and Ben makes friends with one in particular, Mallory (Piper Curda). But there are plenty of other entitled teenage jackholes taking boats out on the marina, and they promptly proceed to make the immediate future miserable for Ben. It doesn’t help that Ben’s father already seems to have found a girlfriend replacement in a coworker at the marina, Sara (Azie Tesfai).
Meanwhile, there’s strange things afoot in the woods surrounding Liam’s house, one terrorizing old tree in particular, and next door neighbor Abbie’s son Dillon (Blane Crockarell), curious little thing that he is, just can’t seem to help himself from investigating them. It doesn’t help that Abbie (Zarah Mahler)seems to think aimless woods-wandering is a fun lark, even when they hit a very large buck with their car, and insist on bringing it home. And from those dark and forbidding woods whence it came, something sinister and evil crawls out of the bucks corpse, to take up residence in poor Abbie’s skin suit.
Like most evil things, the witch of the woods is forever hungry and never satisfied, a gaping ravenous maw whose main desire, apparently, is children. Any man-flesh will do in a pinch, but children are the preferred main course, and witch-Abbie starts with her hosts smallest child Sam, Dillon’s younger brother. Curiously, after Sam is devoured its as though his entire existence was erased too, like he never was at all. Abbie is acting strangely, her husband Ty (Kevin Bigley) is beginning to notice quite against his will, and Dillon is afraid he’ll be next. Ben is also quite fearful for Dillon and of his crazy witch of a next door neighbor, trying to warn both his father Liam and Mal, both of whom dismiss his concerns pretty flippantly. The witch is never satisfied, the more Ben tries to investigate the more attention he gains, and not-Abbie’s evil is beginning to spread everywhere as she hunts for more children to eat!
It’s a common trope in most horror films for the young to never be believed when talking about encroaching evil, be it world-devouring monsters or creepy alive dolls, by both the surrounding adults and even their peers. And in this, ‘The Wretched’ is no different. But Ben is your fairly typical boy-next-door resourceful type, and after some computer research about the witch in the woods, Ben begins using salt and other ‘white’ magics defensively, as the film picks up speed and confrontations with the witch in her child-stealing tree head toward inevitability!
A fine mix of old-fashioned evil-lurking-in-the-woods horror and modern attempts at heroism, ‘The Wretched’ packs in the ‘gotcha!’ moments and some truly great practical effects for body horror, and is a fine movie to add to your Halloween collection!