Director: Adam MacDonald
Starring: Nicole Munoz, Laurie Holden & Chloe Rose
Rating: N/A Duration: 90 minutes Release date: 16 April (UK)
The term “low-budget horror” is often tacked onto reviews as a way to get your quote onto a films poster. A term of endearment if you will. It’s normally a mark of a films quality and not something to be used in a detrimental sense. Pyewacket falls into this sub-genre and is director Adam MacDonald’s second feature. There is good here, there is bad and there is a whole lot of waiting.
Patience is most certainly a virtue with Pyewacket, so much so that it could well become the literal definition of a slow-burn. Pyewacket is a frustrating affair. At once hugely promising, and at others it will have you wondering just when something is actually going to happen. Pyewacket avoids the jump scare routine associated with the Blumhouse films and their ilk, and has instead gone for a more measured approach. The frustration being that you question what the purpose is here.
Early on, the film builds upon the relationship between Laurie Holden and Nicole Munoz – a mother and daughter who are struggling with the recent death of their husband & father. The bond between the two is broken – Holden’s mother struggles to interact with her daughter, while Munoz has broken away and formed a new group of friends who are into witchcraft and black metal. The former is the key here, and while her friends dabble in the occult in the hope of getting laid, Munoz has a much more sinister use for it. After moving into the countryside and after sizeable argument with each other, Munoz departs into the woods and summons a demon known as Pyewacket in the hope it will take her mothers life.
The term “be careful what you wish for” could not be more apt here. After performing a ritual in the forest things begin to go bump in the night. Noises are heard in the attic and things soon become very strange. The hook being that the audience does not know whether our young lead is imaging the occurrences or if something very sinister is beginning to take shape. The wonder is really one of the films stronger points and it’s interesting to see her friends disbelieve her pleas and take more than a little offence at the tactics she has taken. The disappointment being that the film takes far too long to get going. This is no It Follows or The Witch, and even at a brisk 90 minutes long Pyewacket is in no hurry to reach its conclusion.
Another strong point is Holden and Munoz. Both are highly capable actors and show a great deal of poise here. Their relationship develops and the actors are keen, even if the subject matter is sometimes dealt with a lot less subtlety than they portray in each others roles. As a horror film, Pyewacket must be drawn on how scary it is. When the film reaches its final third, it does become creepy, and the manifestation of Pyewacket is smartly done. The film knows that less is more here & plays well with this technique, and the confrontation in the finale does linger in the mind afterwards.
Problems persist throughout Pyewacket though, and Adam MacDonald doesn’t find the balance he is after. The shame being he has clear potential, but just needs to find the right structure next time round.