Also, don't mess around with witches.
Pyewacket is a movie that most people outside the horror/indie community probably haven’t heard of (although, you might have if you read Trailers by Brandon a few weeks ago). That’s because this is indie horror at it’s finest — shoe-strong budget with not a lot of marketing.
That, however, doesn’t determine quality. IFC Midnight, who released the film, has made their fair share of stinkers of the years (looking at you, Carnage Park), but their also responsible for some hidden gems that are actually incredible: i.e. The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Pyewacket is much closer to the latter mentioned film. Directed by Adam McDonald, Pyewacket is a creepy film that’s worth the ride for those who are patient enough to take it.
Leah (Nicole Muñoz) isn’t like most high-schoolers her age. I mean, maybe I’m not the best person to judge what most high-schoolers are like these days, but she’s one who clearly doesn’t fit in. She’s right in the middle of a serious grunge phase, meaning she listens to a lot of screamo bands and paints her fingernails black.
She also has something of a passion for black magic and, more specifically, rituals — which might be the most unsettling aspect of them all. Look, this topic is an interesting one to look at from afar and study, but the second you’re doing all kinds of crazy research on this stuff and are attending book signings from experts, you’ve gone too far.
Oh, but Leah doesn’t know she’s gone too far. Not yet, at least.
That comes after she tries to put a black magic curse on her mother (Laurie Holden).
To be fair, her mom wasn’t going to win parent of the year anytime soon. Things have been difficult for the two of them after Leah’s father passed away a few years ago, and their relationship has never been quite the same. In order to move past this tragic event, Leah’s mom thought that moving up north to a secluded cabin would be the best thing for the both of them.
That means that Leah is going to have to transfer schools and say goodbye to all her friends (who are also decked out with piercings and shaved heads). While she’s allowed to finish the rest of the year out in her school, the thought is too much to bear.
So here comes Pyewacket — a demon creature thing that basically turns itself into a witch and will kill whoever they have been called to.
As soon as she completes the ritual, Leah has realized her mistake. Too bad that she doesn’t know how to undo it and her mom is now in danger. Worse yet, after talking with the local expert guy, Leah finds out that after Pyewacket is finished with her mother, she’ll be her next target.
Pyewacket is indie horror for a reason. This isn’t a jump-scare fest (although there are a few annoying ones at the beginning) that’s full of gore and blood. It’s not as mainstream as some other horror movies that have come out recently, like It or Get Out. This requires an audience who knows what they’re getting in for and are willing to sit through the ride.
Because it’s a slower-paced ride than you might expect. Everything involving Pyewacket doesn’t really go down until the third act. While the film is building up the suspense to the witch’s eventual arrival, there’s also a lot of subtle character building moments in Pyewacket — all of which are really carefully handled.
While the first ten minutes could have arguably been cut out of the movie, Adam McDonald does a really good job of defining the characters and setting up their relationship dynamic. You understand where both Leah and her mother are coming from in their frustration and it makes perfect sense why they’re always fighting.
Then, given that Leah was always a bit of a weird outcast, it makes perfect sense why she would try to do something like evoke black magic, and why she would then instantly regret it. Pyewacket might not move at the fastest pace, but it does so in order to let the audience fully understand the world that these characters are inhabiting.
Then, the final twenty minutes come in. There are a few problems with the climax — mainly being the fact that there’s some really obvious foreshadowing that totally takes the punch out of what the end “twist” is supposed to be (most people will guess it from a mile away) — but the levels of intensity are still there. The script falters, yes, but McDonald still proves himself as a more than capable director during these moments as he’s able to really mine the scares for all they’re worth.
Pyewacket isn’t going to be the next big horror movie that breaks all kinds of boundaries and completely changes the conversation about the genre. But it is one well worth seeing if you’re a fan of this kind of thing.
Watch the trailer for Pyewacket here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie? Did you think it was scary? How about that ending?
'Pyewacket' review: Don't play with black magic, kids.7