The Wretched (2020)
Directed by Brett and Drew Pierce
On the backs of the 60 American drive-in movie theaters willing to show it, the small IFC horror release “The Wretched” is currently topping the coronavirus-stunted domestic box office for all of May. That’s a big deal, considering you’ve likely never heard of it unless you read about its surprising economic success lately. And considering a Marvel movie has topped the May box office every year since 2012. While “The Wretched” certainly can’t be judged a masterpiece, it is, somewhat surprisingly, just as good as the average big-studio horror movie. If you feel like getting out of the house for some no-contact, late-night, drive-in theater entertainment, I can definitely think of less enjoyable options than “The Wretched.”
After getting into some trouble and breaking his arm, otherwise affable teen Ben (John-Paul Howard) moves in with his father for the summer. When he’s not working for his dad at the marina or navigating the troubling waters of young love, Ben spies on the new neighbors, a seemingly normal family who soon take a troubling turn for the weird. Ben thinks the woman of the house, Abbie (Zarah Mahler), has secrets, but nobody in town is willing to believe the new kid with the troubled past. Ben is right, of course, but how many people will disappear, die, or be otherwise affected by the haunting before those closest to him catch on?
While some horror movies don’t even bother trying to scare you until halfway through, “The Wretched” stays consistently scary throughout. While it never makes the jump to outright horrifying, there’s enough action to keep the movie going for its entire 95-minute runtime. It starts off with a murder, and although it takes a detour to introduce the main characters, it doesn’t waste time reintroducing the demon at the movie’s center. There are small frights and weird happenings every so often until the climax, the third-act twist, and then the chilling final shot.
While “The Wretched” is taking American-drive-ins by storm, it’s also available to rent on digital platforms. Regardless of how you watch it, the fact that an unknown horror movie has found its footing in this unprecedented time is pretty exciting to think about. I’m happy for it.