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The Wretched (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 3, 2020


Starring John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Azie Tespai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley, Gabriela Quezada Bloomgarden, Richard Ellis, Blane Crockarell, Judah Paul, Ja’Layah Washington, Amy Waller, Ross Kidder, Kasey Bell, Harry Burkey, Trudie Underhill, Sydney Mikelle, Tug Cocker, Madelynn Stuenkell, Owen Thomas Pierce, Pamela Gray, Ryan Alexander Holmes and Kenzie Jones.

Screenplay by The Pierce Brothers.

Directed by The Pierce Brothers.

Distributed by IFC Midnight. 95 minutes. Not Rated.

One of the surprising small virtues of the coronavirus pandemic leading all of us to shelter in place – if anything can really be considered a positive in this crazy world situation – is that most of the bigger film releases have been put on indefinite hold at the same time that the world is bored and hungry for new content. Therefore, we are seeing lots of tiny films released which would have slipped through the cracks in a normal atmosphere, and while some of them deserve that obscurity, others turn out to be diamonds in the rough.

Take The Wretched, a small-time thriller with an almost totally unknown cast. The movie revolves around a witchy tree creature terrorizing a small-town summer lake community, and it is much better than you would have guessed from that thumbnail description. It is far from perfect, but it is pretty damned good.

The Wretched has been circling release for over a year now. It played some fright film festivals last year. No one would have even noticed the film if it were released in a normal situation, but in this new world order it is pretty much considered to be the big movie release of the week.

And you know what? It is a good thing that a modest, well-made labor of love like this is getting some notice and audience affection. While the storyline does get a bit needlessly complicated and inscrutable towards the end, overall, The Wretched is a surprisingly enjoyable and imaginative little thriller. It deserves an appreciative viewership, and hopefully it will find that notice in this strange moment in history in which we find ourselves.

One of the best things about The Wretched (which is a terrible and completely inappropriate title, by the way) is that it does not wallow in its creature or the violence which follows her around. The filmmakers instead follow the Jaws Bruce-the-shark dictum, what you do not see in often much scarier than what you do see.

In fact, it is not totally off-base to say that The Wretched is not so much horrifying as gratifyingly unsettling. It is the story of dark evil landing in the most common of lives, and as such is wonderfully relatable.

In fact, the great majority of the film is not so much about the monster as it is about the community it lands in. Specifically it is the story of a teen named Ben (John-Paul Howard), who has been acting out due to his parents split, and is sent to spend the summer with dad (Jamison Jones), working at his tourist vacation marina. Ben quickly runs afoul of some rich tourist bullies and befriends a cute coworker named Mallory (Piper Curda).

Evil first befalls the nice hipster couple next door, Abbie (Zorah Mahler) and Ty (Kevin Bigley). When Abbie and their son Dillon (Blane Crockarell) hit a deer on their way home from a hiking adventure, they bring the carcass home. What they do not know is that an evil creature was living inside the deer, and it is able to escape and attach itself to other beings.

Ben soon notices that the nice lady next door has had a serious personality change and her husband seems oddly out of it. And when Dillon and their baby disappear, the couple insists they never had children. Then more mysterious things occur, and children die, but no one believes Ben’s suspicions, even Mallory, though she helps him investigate what is going on, at first as a lark, but eventually with more desperation.

It is not the world’s most original storyline, and there are some massive plot holes. And as I said earlier, the ending gets overly complicated.

It does not really matter, though. The Wretched is just so well-made and fun that it just steams past any flaws. Like I said, The Wretched is not perfect, but it is really likable. I just wish we did not have to have a pandemic to get most people to watch it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: May 1, 2020.

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