UK Release Date: 23rd April 2018
Runtime: 84 minutes
Director: Adam MacDonald
Writer: Adam MacDonald
Starring: Nicole Muñoz, Laurie Holden, Chloe Rose, James McGowan, Eric Osborne, Bianca Melchior
Synopsis: A teenager summons a demon and orders it to kill her mother, only to regret the decision and search for a way to send the demon back to where it came from.
This Canadian horror movie, which is arriving straight to DVD and VOD in the UK, is one with a simple enough conceit. A goth teenager, obsessed with occult literature and Satanic culture in general, has an enormous row with her mother when the two of them relocate away from her like-minded friends. Unsurprisingly, mum isn’t a big fan of her daughter’s supernatural leanings and tears a pentagram ring from her finger in the middle of their argument. In a sullen mood, the teen wishes death upon her and then enacts a complex ritual to summon a demon in order to murder her parent. I think we’ve all been there.
The teenager is Leah (Nicole Muñoz) and, immediately after the ritual, her mother (The Walking Dead‘s Laurie Holden) starts being incredibly lovely and understanding. Struck by the buyer’s remorse of a misinformed Brexit voter, she attempts to put the demon back in the bottle, if indeed demons go in bottles. Is that just genies? Either way, a conference call with her favourite occult writer (James McGowan) reveals that the only way for Leah to avert the coming disaster is to repeat the ritual, but in reverse.
The first half of Pyewacket is very interesting, building a degree of tension as it introduces the audience to the world of Muñoz’s character, from her ‘edgy’ teen friends to her fractious relationship with her mother. The scene of the ritual itself has a real sense of creepiness and the gradually escalating spiritual appearances are managed nicely by writer-director Adam MacDonald, who keeps a very firm hand on the tiller. This is a very controlled movie that eschews the jump scares and cheap jolts of many modern horror films.
He’s helped by a solid cast. Muñoz is in more or less every shot of the movie and definitely holds her own, selling the various emotional ups and downs of the story in a far more coherent way than the rest of the film, which seems to generate changes of heart solely for the purpose of narrative progression. Laurie Holden is equally impressive and Chloe Rose makes the most of a bit-part role as one of Leah’s friends who is left cowering in a car outside Leah’s home when Pyewacket seemingly strikes during a sleepover. It’s one of many terrifying, unexplained moments in a film that trades in ambiguity.
Unfortunately, there’s never quite enough in Pyewacket to pay off that ambiguity. Everything that is initially intriguing about Pyewacket quickly becomes tedious as the narrative is left without any sort of explanation or pay-off. The climactic set piece is an eye-catching moment of bracing nastiness, but it’s not enough to satisfy an audience that has been waiting for over an hour in the hope of being scared silly. Mildly unnerving is about as strong as it gets.
Some interviews and a behind the scenes featurette focusing on the climactic set piece. Mildly interesting stuff and better than you often get on a small horror release.
Pop or Poop?
There are all of the constituent parts of a compelling supernatural horror movie in Pyewacket and it’s clear that Adam MacDonald knows exactly what film he wants to make. Unfortunately, though, that film is all sizzle and no steak, fizzling out well before it has any chance to inflict real scares upon its audience.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Pyewacket is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.