Nostalgia plays an important part in horror. Callbacks and lore are an integral part of the genre. This has been especially true in recent years. The problem becomes when these movies rely solely on an old school aesthetic. The Wretched is a horror movie that wears its influences on its sleeve. Ben (John-Paul Howard) is a teenaged boy who is having difficulty dealing with his parents’ upcoming divorce. As he spends his summers with his father, he encounters a force he would rather forget.
There are plenty of references in the movie. Fright Night and Rear Window are just two of the obvious allusions. This is a movie that is unafraid to show off its influences. If it sounds all familiar, that is because it is. This is the rare case where all the references work out, however. The Wretched is never a series of “do you remember this?” moments. Instead, it uses a 1980s vibe to draw audiences in.
The boy who knows too much premise works as well here as ever. (It is the tried and true “why don’t you believe my next door neighbor is a witch” story). There is also great chemistry between Ben and Mallory (Piper Curda). They may remind long time horror fans of other couples, but they never seem like tired retreads. The two do an amazing job of being modern yet cliched.
The Wretched may owe a debt to teen horror movies of the 80s, but it is definitely a modern scare flick. The pacing is not as methodical as Hereditary, but it moves at a much more careful speed than the slashers of previous years. It is an odd combination that works perfectly. It is a “serious” horror movie with a noticeable air of levity.
The film boasts magnificent special effects. The Wretched is old school gore and body horror. Skin literally crawls and backs snap in the most appropriately disgusting ways. All the expected jump scares are here, but they are a modern addition that always manage to work. This is a movie that is hard to watch in all the right ways.
The Wretched will appeal to many different horror fans. Those who love the scary films of the 1980s will fondly remember the fun and fast scares while those who enjoy recent horror movies will enjoy the slow storytelling. It is a surprising mix that is surprising yet remains engaging.The film is a modern fairy tale that will entertain all.
Available on Video on Demand, digital platforms, and drive ins May 1st.
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