From director Adam MacDonald (Going to Kansas City, Home Sweet Home, Blackfoot Trail) ‘Pyewacket’ is a very character-focused indie horror. The film mostly being a small-scale narrative, having a very refreshing look and feel for a modern horror, complete with an eerie location and a brilliantly tense atmosphere. Containing very little jump-scares or gore, more in favour of eerie silence and well-written dialogue.
Plot Summary: A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl (Leah) awakens something in the forest near her new home after she naively performs an evil ritual in an attempt to kill her mother.
Although I’m personally not a huge fan of jump-scares, and I do very much appreciate the film’s draw towards creating an eerie atmosphere. I do feel one or two scattered throughout the film wouldn’t have done any harm, as I feel they would’ve done a great job of scaring the audience when they least expect it and would’ve broken-up some scenes of tension nicely. The film does succeed in creating tension in other ways however, as MacDonald manages to incorporate darkness extremely well throughout the film, using dark lighting and colour palette to focus on the audience’s paranoia of what lurks in the dark corners of the screen. However, the scenes are never overly dark to the point of obscuring the audience’s view, and this works very effectively.
Nicole Muñoz portrays the main protagonist: ‘Leah,’ as a mostly unknown actress, Nicole does a fantastic job of playing an angry teenager dealing with a broken family. Laurie Holden from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ is also surprisingly great as her mother, which I definitely wasn’t expecting as I never really cared much for her character in the TV show, believing her to be very annoying and unlikeable. But it’s clear to me now that this was mostly an issue with the writing on the show, and not with her performance, as here she really does a well with her character.
Alongside the use of darkness and great performances, the film also has amazing cinematography by Christian Bielz. As the film always uses the camera to the best of its advantage to create fear and tension. One shot in particular was a fast-paced P.O.V. shot, which reminded me very heavily of the classic: ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy, and really sent a shiver down my spine when it first encounters one of the characters. The original score by Lee Malia is unfortunately nothing too memorable however, coming-off as a mostly cliché horror soundtrack with the odd emotional tone mixed-in.
My main issue with the film is the pacing, as the film is actually a slow-build, it can sometimes drag. The film mostly does a good job at keeping the audience invested with that brilliant horror atmosphere and great character drama. But some of the scenes set at ‘Leah’s’ high school can really feel very bland and drawn-out. Especially when you compare these scenes to the scenes in the forest surrounding ‘Leah’ and her mother’s home, as these are always brimming with tension and are incredibly fun to experience at any-point during the film’s runtime.
In addition to this, without spoiling anything, the ending of the film is also very memorable. As the film truly leaves the audience on a dark and shocking note, which is sure to stick with you long after the credits have rolled, and genuinely helps the film become far more of a standout when compared to similar film’s in its genre. The film also has many small details, one being the title of the film itself, as the name ‘Pyewacket’ comes from the 1647 British pamphlet: ‘The Discovery of Witches,’ in which author Matthew Hopkins claims to have interrogated witches in Essex County. One witch names many familiars, including the spirit: ‘Pyewacket’ which appeared to her as some sort of animal.
Although ‘Pyewacket’ probably isn’t one of my favourite all-time horror flicks, it is one I would recommend to most. Although the slow-pace and lack of jump-scares may frustrate some viewers, the film does build up an amazing atmosphere, with great performances from the small cast and some decent dialogue to back it up. The film isn’t perfect but it does mostly contain what I personally desire from a modern horror film, and I think ‘Pyewacket’ can be a great watch for a ‘different’ kind of horror fan. Final Rating: low 7/10.