The title has been applied blankly and pretty arbitrarily to a by-the-numbers, unscary movie from US indie film-makers, the Pierce brothers, Drew and Brett. It was originally called Hag, which would have been better.
Ben (Jean-Paul Howard) is a troubled teenager who one summer goes to stay with his divorced dad, Liam (Jamison Jones), at a coastal resort; he’s been fixed up with a job at the marina that Liam manages. Ben starts to have feelings for smart, pretty Mallory (Piper Curda), who works there, but he also becomes obsessed with the weird family who live next door to his dad, especially the mom, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), who is behaving very strangely.
The laborious “35 years previously” flashback that begins the movie hints darkly at horrible events that once took place in this house. (Some odd period-signalling shows an Etch-a-Sketch and Rubik’s cube left out in the rain.) Could it be that an ancient witch, who lives under a tree in the nearby woodland, is making predatory and parasitic attacks on local women?
This film has pinched ideas from Hitchcock, Spielberg, Stephen King and a number of others, but these borrowings don’t feel like film-brat homages, just generic mannerisms that the directors have absorbed from the industry atmosphere. There is a bit of Blair Witch here, and a dash of J-horror, and the film particularly displays the now baffling belief that to be really scary you have to look like a hideous demon who turns around to face the camera in a series of shuddering creaks.
The narrative focus is frustratingly split between Ben’s family and Abbie’s, and the result is a non-frightening muddle.
• The Wretched is available on digital platforms from 8 May.
Source: The Guardian