Leah Reyes is a teenager coping with the recent death of her father, finding solace in literature, more specifically, in books dealing with the occult arts. While her friends are there for moral support, her mother is an emotional mess. To make matters worse, not only her mother seems unable to accept her husband’s death and move on, but also at moments seems that she feels that Leah is to blame for her loss. One night, after a very heated discussion, Leah performs a ritual that puts a deadly curse on her mother. Quickly regretting what she did, the girl starts to look for a way to revert the invocation in order to prevent that the witch known as «Pyewacket» fulfills the curse. The moral of this story: «Be careful what you wish for, someone might be listening»
«Pyewacket» is a film that I enjoyed A LOT, and although is clear that it had some limitations due its budget, it delivers an excellent story with a very scary atmosphere. The main characters are very well written, and far from being the usual stereotypes in this kind of movies, they feel like actual people that we may see every day on our lives. From the beginning we can sympathize and side with Leah, because contrary to what we normally see in these movies, she is not a cynical teenager that complains about everything just to get attention, nor plays the role of a tortured martyr moaning that life does not give her what she believes she deserves. Leah is someone that besides dealing with the usual crap that comes with growing up, she tries very hard to cope with the loss of her father and even tries to emotionally support her mother, showing in several occasions to be even more mature that her.
When we see Leah making the invocation after the discussion with Mrs Reyes, we can accept it as a understandable reaction (Irrational, sure, but understandable). Thus, we really worry for her when we see she regrets her actions and tries to stop the curse. This is in big part due the great job Nicole Muñoz does in the role of Leah, making her very grounded and relatable. Also Laurie Holden shines as Leah’s mother, her character has several layers, and as we get to see them, we can understand that in reality she is not a bad person, therefore we want even more that Leah manages to stop the curse. If you only know Holden for her work as «Andrea» on the TV show «The Walking Dead» see this film, because you will see that the lady really has talent, and that in said zombie show was very underused.
The film has several very tense moments that work great, and do not rely on annoying fake jump scares. Also there are some scenes were the camera use was a key piece to create the tension, reminding me some of the work done by Sam Raimi. The film has special effects that are very good for the most part, but there is also a scene where MAYBE (In my opinion) would have work better if nothing was shown and left everything to the imagination, using only the same sound effects employed previously. Although it was nothing that could ruin the film, it did brought down some of the tension that was being created in that moment. I won’t get into details due spoilers, but I am sure you will spot the scene when you see it.
Another thing that worked for me was how the soundtrack was used in several scenes. The director Adam McDonald knew very well when to use it and when to leave only the ambient sound. There is a scene that worked great precisely for not using any kind of music from beginning to end. A lot of other directors would have use this moment to deliver another loud noise to create a jump scare at the end of the scene, but McDonald let the scene play naturally, which made it sooo much scary. (Hint: is on the woods at night and includes a friend)
In conclusion: «Pyewacket» is a film that brings several great ideas, with a lot to offer to the horror fans that are tired of dumb jump scares and overused cliche characters. At several times we can relate to these characters., therefore care for them and worry when they are in danger. The film makes the most of its 90 minutes run time, using a pace that never feels too rushed or tired. There are several tense moments that reward our patience therefore, I highly recommend that you see this movie.
Directed and written by Adam McDonald (Backcountry), «Pyewacket» has a cast with the talents of Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), Nicole Muñoz (Defiance), Chloe Rose (Hellions), James McGowan, Eric Osborne and Romeo Carere.
«Pyewacket» will be released on select theaters in the U.S. and on VOD platforms on March 23rd, 2018 via IFC Midnight.