Written and directed by brothers Brett and Drew T Pierce – the duo behind the 2011 zombie film Deadheads – The Wretched stars John-Paul Howard as Ben, a troubled teen who is sent to spend the summer with his father in a small lakeside community.
Ben is still reeling from the news of his parents’ imminent divorce, and his summer of teenage defiance takes a dark turn when his neighbours begin acting suspiciously. His search for answers leads him to a frightening discovery: someone – or something – is hunting the townspeople and now it has its sights set on him.
Expertly directed, The Wretched begins with a shocking opening scene which immediately grabs the audiences’ attention, setting the tone of the film and offering a glimpse at the horrors to come. From there, the tension builds slowly as Ben tries to make sense of the strange events unfolding around him before it all culminates in an epic finale which is equal parts terrifying and surprising.
The Pierce brothers say they were inspired both by author Roald Dahl’s book The Witches and the experience of living through their own parents’ divorce. For their “creature”, they drew on witches from folklore they’d never seen depicted on screen, but also wanted it to feel like “the perfect predator for the modern self- absorbed families of today”.
The result is a refreshingly enjoyable horror movie which doesn’t rely on darkness or jump scares. Instead, the directors use creative camera angles, ominous music (and sometimes complete silence) to induce fear; a shot of an actor standing silently in broad daylight can be just as creepy as a scene filmed in darkness. There are several superbly crafted special effects, but mostly it is the script and the actors that create tension.
The cast all deliver strong performances – including Howard and fellow young actor Piper Curda, who plays Ben’s new friend, Mallory – but it is Zarah Mahler who steals the show as neighbour Abbie, whose increasingly disturbing behaviour will have you locking your doors.
The Wretched is screening now at Wallis Cinemas in South Australia.