In the years to come, when I go back and un-fondly remember all of 2020 and the way COVID-19 basically butt fucked the film industry to no end, THE WRETCHED is going to be the one film that I will say actually benefited from the pandemic. Why? Do some research. Drive-In theaters are still in business right now, and while most of the are playing stuff that hit theaters right before this virus shut everything down, there are a couple of films that went straight to Video On Demand, that these theaters have decided to play on their outside big screen as well. The Wretched is one of them, and you might not know it until you read it, but it is making history. This past weekend would make it be the 5th consecutive week at #1 in the theaters, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Black Panther in 2018. It has made $660,000 to date, with only a rumored production budget of less than $100,000. That might not seem like a big number to a lot of people, but for a small film company like IFC, it’s a lot. According to one major box office analyst, Jeff Bock, “If it gets to $1 million, it’s like another studio getting to $100 million.” That’s huge. And with no major tent poles coming out till maybe (a hard maybe) end of July, there is no doubt that it will hit that mark. Part of the reason I think the movie will make it, it really is quite damn good and very entertaining for how low budget it is. When I rented it for a pretty damn fair $6.99 this weekend, I was expecting something low budget like a really crudely made college student film, something like ThanksKilling. But no, the picture is crisp, the acting is above-average, and while the story is basically just a mix and match of Blair Witch (not the doc portion), Fright Night, and Rear Window, it throws a couple of little twists and one HUGE one that I didn’t see coming at all. In the age of COVID, this is a near perfect film. Both in style and execution.
I don’t want to give too much away, and a lot of film sites have a paragraph description that says too much, so again, from IMDB.com, as they have a near perfect log line: “A defiant teenage boy, struggling with his parent’s imminent divorce, faces off with a thousand year-old witch, who is living beneath the skin of and posing as the woman next door.” Definitely do not watch a trailer if you happen to find one. Even if the movie didn’t have the big twist at the end, it still has impressive visuals and sounds for even the lowest of low budget films. The witch’s design and gore effects being under other innocent victims’ skin is grotesque and real looking. The slurp and slop sound bites will make your skin crawl with goosebumps through the entire 95 minute runtime. The works. This film has the works. And this movie is also one of the few horror films that has an obligatory sequel end scene that makes me crave and hope for a sequel. I also think we need a sequel to maybe flesh out the witch’s mythology and her exact powers and limits. While this movie gives you bits and pieces to maybe try and organize the clues together to form your own version of the witches origins, if the film had any weaknesses, it was that it was just short of giving us enough. It needed more horror film rules, as it were. Granted I don’t want a shit ton where it isn’t that much of a mystery anymore, but some of the things contradicted each other a bit if you pay attention closely, especially toward the end. Those kinds of details need a little bit more explanation. But everything else in this is quite entertaining and solid, and it even has earned jump scares. It’s a very well made low budget horror movie, and gives the finger to others with how good it is, such as The Blair Witch Project or the Paranormal Activity franchise.
The movie was written and directed by The Pierce Brothers, who I don’t know, and looking up their career haven’t done much. But give these guys a bigger budget, and they could definitely be going places. Their camera work here is superb for how little this film cost. I don’t know any of the actors, but the lead 17 year old boy, played by NOT ANSEL ELGORT, did a pretty fine job with his performance, in fact, you could say he acted circles around more known horror film stars today that are twice his age. There isn’t much more I can say about this film without giving away spoilers. The big twist at the end is worth the price of a rental alone. There was this one scene at the beginning that was a little awkward to me, the dialogue, the reaction, what that dialogue was referring to. I kind of cringed back and was hoping there weren’t many more of those moments. Come to find out, that 3 second awkward exchange happened to be the first set up to the major twist at the end, and I ended up applauding that scene now for its utter brilliance of establishing set ups for great pay offs. The movie is vastly more entertaining than the low budget sci-fi Amazon Prime Original I just reviewed, The Vast of Night. I was hooked the entire run time, and even though the plot relies heavily on beats from Fright Night and Rear Window, it does it in its own unique way where all of it ends up being 100% forgivable. Also, this film has some balls. No one is safe from death, not even little children & babies. It doesn’t pull its punches. If you are reading this, and if you have a drive in near you that’s playing this, please go out and support that theater. It really is the perfect drive in movie. And if you don’t, I definitely recommend renting it, but making sure you have a decent home theater set up before you do. You are not really meant to watch this one on a phone, no matter what any other jackass tells you. The world is wretched itself right now, but it was nice to have a temporary perfect potion for a little escape. Highly, highly recommend.