Pyewacket (Movie Review)

Pyewacket (Movie Review)
8 10

PLOT: When you’re dealing with demons, be careful what you wish for… In this ultra-unsettling occult nightmare, teenage Leah (Nicole Muñoz) finds solace from the recent death of her father—and from her strained relationship with her mother (Laurie Holden)—by dabbling in the dark arts. It all seems like harmless fun at first, until a blow out argument leads Leah to do the unthinkable: put a death curse on her mother. No sooner has the girl performed the ritual then she regrets it. But it may be too late, as an evil presence known as Pyewacket begins to make itself known—and threatens to destroy both mother and daughter.

REVIEW: When I first saw the trailer for PYEWACKET come across my desk a few months back I added the film to the top of my must-see list quick as all hell. First, I love the film's plot, which features a teenage goth girl placing a death curse on her mother - and then regretting it - and I was over the blood moon excited to check out writer-director Adam MacDonald's new film after peeping his bear-attack flick BACKCOUNTRY a year or so ago.

Side note: If you haven't seen BACKCOUNTRY, do so ASAP; it's currently streaming on Netflix so no excuses. But back to PYEWACKET. Yes, I was excited about the film's plot and the fact that the film brought writer-director Adam MacDonald back to the horror spotlight, but add in that the film co-stars Laurie Holden (THE MIST, THE WALKING DEAD) and I was counting down the days until I could peep the film for AITH. So what did I think after all that hype? Let's get into that below...

For the sake of argument let's start of this review by talking a bit about the film's name. Pyewacket is "one of the familiar spirits of a witch detected by the "witchfinder general" Matthew Hopkins in March 1644 in the town of Manningtree, Essex, England." So basically, Pyewacket is a spirit that visits and helps witches, and in turn, refers to the film's main demon baddie.

Okay, that out of the way let's dive into the film's plot a bit deeper. The film follows the misadventures of a budding teenage witch named Leah (Nicole Muñoz) whose father recently passed away and now it's just Leah and her mother (Laurie Holden) left to pick up the pieces of each other. Leah's mother can't live in their family home anymore, so she uproots Leah from all of her goth friends and transplants her deep in a cabin in the woods. Not a good move it turns out... After a night of hurtful words between Leah and her mother, Leah heads out into the woods with her new Occult Rituals book to keep her company and sets about putting a death curse onto her mother's blonde head.

From there MacDonald's film begins to play a game of guilt and remorse, dread and what-if's. Not only does poor black-clad Leah feel bad about the fight she had with her mother the previous night, but now she's worried she might have succeeded in her attempts to bring about this PYEWACKET fellow. Was her ritual out in those dark woods a success? Is a demonic spirit now out for her mother's blood? Or is Leah's mind slipping due to the pain of losing her father? Family drama for days.

Not that family drama is a bad thing. In fact, with PYEWACKET, writer-director Adam MacDonald spends more than half of his film's running time exploring the relationship between mother and daughter to full, multi-layered effect; just like he did with BACKCOUNTRY. That film made us wait for what seemed like forever for the eventual bear to attack, and this film makes us wait even longer to find out if Pyewacket is real, and if/when he/she/it is going to attack. Again, not that this is a bad thing. Actually, this is called tension, suspense, and creeping dread, and MacDonald has all three in spades.

On top of that, the film's performances are aces, with both Muñoz and Holden turning in uber-vulnerable performances. As an audience, we never know just whose side we want to take in their fighting and that kicked the fear of them being torn apart, both metaphorically and literally, into over-drive for this guy. Both Leah and her mother love each other and show genuine affection for the other, but then there are moments of grief-driven rage when horrific words are spat and death curses are conjured in the darkness.

In the end, Adam MacDonald's PYEWACKET was everything that I was hoping it would be. Sure it isn't going to scare the hell out of the typical Saturday night teen-horror crowd, but if you dig your horror films with more than a healthy dosage of genuine drama, then PYEWACKET is sure to be your cup of blood.

Extra Tidbit: The film hits select theaters and on VOD on March 23.
Source: AITH



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