John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley, Gabriela Quezada, Jamison Jones
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For some reason, witches never seem to get a fair shake in the realm of horror movies. There are about sixty trillion vampire flicks, a cool million werewolf joints and more zombie movies than you can shake a severed femur at, but witches? A scant few. Oh sure, there are some notable examples. The Blair Witch Project (1999), of course, although the titular witch never actually appears on screen. There’s Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Luca Guadagnino’s enthusiastic 2018 remake of the same. And, of course, there’s the best recent example, Robert Egger’s divisive, subversive The Witch (2015). The Wretched, from brothers Brett and Drew T. Pierce, attempts to add to that slender canon, and the result is… fitfully entertaining.
The Wretched is essentially the story of affable teen, Ben (John-Paul Howard) who comes to stay with his father, Liam (Jamison Jones) during the messy divorce of his parents. Life with dad isn’t so bad, and Ben meets the quirky Mallory (Piper Curda) with whom he is quite smitten. What puts a damper on the whole caper is that there seems to be a body-possessing witch crawling around the area, and it just might have taken over sexy neighbour lady, Abbie (Zarah Mahler). What follows is a cheerful, albeit derivative, mashup of the likes of Rear Window (1954), Fright Night (1985) and Supernatural, with loads of jump scares, decent creature effects and a gamely over-the-top third act.
The Wretched has the somewhat dubious distinction of being one of the few box office success stories during COVID-19, mainly because it played in drive-in theatres across the United States when there was bugger all else on. Taken as a trashy, fun-but-forgettable, drive-in flick The Wretched provides an amiable 95 minutes that, while unlikely to leave you with any lingering nightmares, or indeed vivid memories of the film at all, is a mostly entertaining, occasionally imaginative, bit of escapist genre fluff.
Younger audiences or those hard up for new genre offerings will likely appreciate the modest charms on display here. Witches, however, will probably be extremely unimpressed.