This review is brought to you in partnership with our friends at Vertigo Releasing
Having done the rounds at several Horror Film Festivals in late 2019. The Pierce brothers (Deadheads) latest journey into darkness takes inspiration from a range of classic horror and fantasy films. In bringing us a delightfully dark mashup of both monster horror, folklore and fantasy with The Wretched. One that bears a resemblance to Lee Cronin’s chilling The Hole in the Ground. While equally providing us with a more mainstream young adult fantasy/horror than Cronin’s 2019 picture. Ultimately offering a summer horror that owes a clear debt of gratitude to both Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
The Piece brothers waste no time in setting the scene, as we are taken back 35 years to a chilling discovery in the small United States coastal town. Before jumping back to the present and the arrival of 17 year old Ben (John-Paul Howard) at his fathers coastal home. His own mind still acclimatising to the recent separation of his parents. As he prepares for a summer working with his dad at the local marina.
However, all is not as it first appears as the sun beats down on the sea loving community. And as Ben grows more concerned for the welfare of his neighbours; a young couple with a son and baby. He takes too spying on the family from his balcony in an effort to understand the strange events occurring next door. Confiding his fears in a girl who also works at the marina (Piper Curda). While equally keeping his dad and his new girlfriend distant from the possible horror unfolding. But as events take a strange turn, and the boy next door disappears. Ben takes it upon himself to root out the horror unfolding in his own backyard.
While The Wretched offers a classic summertime horror mix of hormonal teens, coastal sunshine and scares. Its horror ultimately plays to deeper fears of the hidden world beneath our feet. A theme that has also been covered in The Gate and the more recent Stranger Things, and one that ties to our collective childhood fears of the monster under the bed. And in reflecting this The Wretched offers an accomplished and entertaining diversion from the real horrors of the pandemic currently facing us.
It is also admirable that The Wretched tries to provide a shock twist in its final act. One designed to encourage the audience to revisit the film and unpick what they missed. However, unfortunately this falls slightly flat. Never quite managing to captivate the viewer or encourage more than a mere shrug in the reveal. However, this aside The Wretched is an entertaining slice of teen horror, that shines in both performances and visual style. Offering a delightfully dark summer escape, that provides all the ingredients needed to keep viewers both entertained and scared in equal measure. While also joyously ditching CGI for some excellent practical effects work; something that is so often mistakenly bypassed in modern horror.
While it may not push the boundaries of the genre or achieve anything truly unique when compared with its contemporaries. The Wretched is a good slice of modern horror, that will undoubtedly find a legion of fans through streaming. While equally encouraging us all to look under the bed for any creatures that lurk in the dark. Just as we did as children full of imagination for the unseen world beneath our feet.
Directors: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce
Cast: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler
The Wretched is available to stream and buy from 8th May 2020 on all major platforms