Horror movies often work best when they place extraordinary events in relatively ordinary settings. Halloween scares because its inexplicable evil just happens. It has no motive or reason, and it happens right next door. The family in Poltergeist could be your family. And the neighbours in Rosemary’s Baby seem so damn ordinary. As the “Master of Suspense”, Alfred Hitchcock understood what frightened us. One of his most revered movies, Rear Window, peeled back the banality of our lives to expose hidden horrors. It’s a concept that many horror movies have cherrypicked over the years. Now indie horror movie The Wretched puts a supernatural twist on the Hitchcockian premise with its “witch next door” story.
After running into some trouble, teenaged Ben goes to spend the summer with his father, Liam. However, their relationship is strained by the his parents’ impending divorce and Liam’s new younger girlfriend, Sara. Things start of well – Liam begins to re-connect with his father and even meets a girl, Mallory, at his summer job. But when Ben spies strangers things happening at the neighbours’ house, he begins to suspect a witch has taken the place of the women next door.
The Wretched Puts Fun Supernatural Spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window
Yes, writing and directing brothers Brett and Drew T Pierce take a page out from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. First, you can certainly do a whole lot worse than to pay homage to the “Master of Suspense”. One of Hitchcock’s favourite themes was the idea of evil hiding amongst us. It’s an idea he explored in Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and Shadow of a Doubt, among others. Second, The Wretched is hardly the first movie to use the premise as a launching pad. Tom Holland’s Fright Night and, more recently, Disturbia, have adapted the same basic concept. And The Wretched is less interested in mining Hitchcock’s deeper subtext, for better or worse. Instead, the Pierce brothers use the premise to kickstart what’s a fun supernatural spin on the idea.
Expect a couple of well-developed twists near the end that evidence some careful and patient story-telling.
Though it arguably lacks the same thematic depth as Rear Window, The Wretched spins an intriguing horror narrative that hooks you from the opening frame. To some extent, the Pierce Brothers rely on familiar suspense tropes to propel their story. Ben sees things that others miss that, when paired with his troubled past, make him look all the more dubious. It’s a plot point borrowed from any number of late 80s and early 90s psychological thrillers. Nevertheless, The Wretched spends enough time fleshing out Ben and his friendship with Mallory to invest the proceedings with some heart. Expect a couple of well-developed twists near the end that evidence some careful and patient story-telling. While they’re not completely game-changing developments, they serve to immediately elevate what you’ve just watched.
The Wretched Casts Enough Scares and Suspense To Bewitch Horror Fans
One can’t fault The Wretched if it feels occasionally familiar, particularly when it looks so good and works so well. Straight out of the gate, the Pierce Brothers demonstrate that they have a very capable grasp of how to stage and execute scares. Specifically, The Wretched very effectively employs a variety of techniques – from foreshadowing to exploiting the corners of screens – to earn some good jolts. From a visual perspective, The Wretched looks like a theatrical horror movie release in every way imaginable. Though its witch borrows some of its jerky contortions from past horror movies, the practical effects are no less impressive and eerie. Most importantly, The Wretched doesn’t sacrifice atmosphere for jump scares. To their credit, The Pierce Brothers employ an effectively foreboding tone throughout the movie. Moreover, The Wretched manages to conjure up a handful of edge-of-your-seat moments in what’s a tightly paced movie.
Young Stars Impress With The Opportunity Afforded to Them
Young stars, John-Paul Howard and Piper Curda, playing Ben and Mallory, impress with the opportunity to carry a movie. Neither actor is likely familiar to most audiences. Howard previous appeared in the abysmal 14 Cameras, but the less said about that movie, the better. Both young actors are instantly likeable and relatable in their roles. As a troubled teen, Howard avoids leaning on lazy stereotypes giving a layered and likeable performance. And Curda presents with an instant charisma that makes her stand out in each scene in which she’s present. Not as much is required from the adult performers, but everyone is reliably good in their supporting roles. It also helps that the Pierce Brothers clearly paid attention to characters and relationships in their screenplay.
The Wretched Deserves a Look from Horror Fans
In what’s been a disrupted year for theatrical release, The Wretched emerges as one of the first VOD releases to genuinely surprise. With no advance fanfare, the Pierce Brothers have turned in what should grow into a fan favourite among horror fans. Some critics will point out that the movie doesn’t really do anything revolutionary or game-changing, which is true. Many of the ideas in The Wretched will feel familiar. But it’s a genuinely suspenseful, scary, and engaging horror movie. Everything about this movie stands above what you often find in most indie horror movies No, The Wretched doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it deserves a look from horror fans.