The Wretched—A troubled teen, Ben (John-Paul Howard), goes to stay with his Dad and work at a marina in the wake of his parents’ separation. He begins to suspect that the Mom of the nice young family next door is a witch—not a nice, New-Agey Wiccan, but a taloned, skin-stealing, kid-abducting elemental forest crone; something akin to the “Boo Hag” of South Carolina folklore.
There are hair-raising moments and an agreeable Stephen-King-ish flavor to this shocker, written and directed by the Pierce Brothers (Brett and Drew). Ben, a flawed but decent, courageous kid, is easy to root for; the gore and splatter effects, though potently gruesome, don’t feel gratuitous, and there’s an ingenious plot twist. Some sort of subtext about how kids get forgotten during parental drama is rattling around under the movie’s surface, but this isn’t allowed to interfere with the thrills. Despite a misstep here and there, this is one of the more entertainingly straightforward horror pictures in a while.
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