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Film Review: “The Wretched” Boasts Fantastic Visuals and Effects Amid Lacking Story

Written by: Patrick Howard | May 1st, 2020

Film poster: “The Wretched”

The Wretched (Brett Pierce/Drew T. Pierce, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.

Directed by the Pierce brothers, The Wretched stars John-Paul Howard as a teenager, still struggling with his parents’ divorce, who agrees to work at his father’s business at the local pier for the summer. John-Paul Howard’s Ben is committed to counting away the seconds until he can leave his boring harbor town for good. Just as the next dull day is about to bare its ugly face, Ben spies on his next-door neighbors and discovers that an ancient forest witch has taken residence. It’s only a matter of time until this witch finds her way to destroying everything Ben holds dear.

The Wretched is a new age Goosebumps story with the horrifying flair of David Cronenberg and Alfred Hitchcock. The Wretched’s witch sports a horrific design straight out of a child’s nightmare. The great makeup effects paired with the excellent sound design of creaking and popping limbs and unnerving moans create scenes that will send perpetual chills down your spine. The practical effects of The Wretched are something to marvel at and the film looks fantastic thanks to cinematographer Conor Murphy (Mickey and the Bear). Sadly, the comparison to a Goosebumps story extends to superficial characters and spotty mythology.

John-Paul Howard in THE WRETCHED ©IFC Films

All of these elements make for a frustrating watch. While I love watching this witch kill its victims and then wear their skins, I quickly realized she is a witch with the power of dramatic convenience. These moments reek of a script that never made it past the second draft. The fact that The Wretched is a lean 90 minutes is appreciated, but this time, another 15 or 20 minutes would have greatly worked in the film’s favor.


Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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