‘Pyewacket’ is one of the hardest movies I’ve had to review because its very difficult to articulate just how a movie, which has fantastic production values, strong acting and characters, can ultimately be so hard to recommend.
The plot of ‘Pyewacket’ follows Leah, an angst ridden teen essentially throwing the mother of all temper tantrums. Whilst Leah’s home-life is a little rocky, her mother struggling with her husband gone, her daughter rebelling and in desperate need of a new start, Leah doesn’t seem to be able to see past her own self importance; and most notably wanting to hang out with her friends and boyfriend at her whim. Leah finally snaps when her mother announces that they are leaving the town to live in a more remote settings about an hour away. Having an interest in the occult Leah takes it upon herself to summon ‘Pyewacket’ a dark and manipulative spirit to kill her mother.
Naturally she comes to regret that decision, but is it too late to stop it?
In reality the film plays out like a poor mans ‘Babadook’, as we never truly know whether ‘Pyewacket’ is real, or whether Leah’s suggestibility and own emotions are driving her to imagining that it it is.
The films strengths come from all the aspects I’ve listed above. First off the cinematography and locations look fantastic. Once you get past the rather slow start the film does turn it up a gear utilising both of these features to create an eerie atmosphere. The acting to is solid, Nicole Munoz does a great job as Leah, and whilst I wouldn’t say you ever sympathise with her character, she plays the bratty ‘misunderstood’ teen role well. Laurie Holden, who plays her mother, does a great job of balancing a strung-out-single-mom with a more maternal, mature character when the story needs it. All in all, whilst my tolerance for teenage drama is limited, the films setup does a good enough job of setting the scene, establishing enough context and back story for viewers to invest in the characters.
Sadly, the film is lacking in a big way in its second act.
The story is garbage, actually, more so its execution. The tension is there, but the chills are sparse. Leaning too heavily on the ambiguity of whether or not the spirit is in Leah’s mind alone leaves huge swathes of the film either devoid of any true threat, or ones which are so subtle, the conclusion to that question is pretty obvious. I am not exaggerating, ‘Bianca Melchior’s’ role as ‘Pyewacket’ must have gotten a round 30 seconds of screen-time. Admittedly, those brief scenes, are amongst the best in the film but still. A chiller with no real threat, is not all that chilling at all. There are other set pieces in the film which are effectively delivered, but ultimately go nowhere – one in particular, which sees one of Leah’s friends left traumatised after a sleep-over seems to offer massive continuity issues once the films conclusion as revealed itself.
Indeed, the films conclusion really highlights the films overall ineffectiveness. What a bust.
Honestly, the films ending, intended to be the ‘twist’ reveal, was actually the more obvious conclusion – completely; I couldn’t see any other option available, so I was essentially shown exactly what I’d surmised 45 minutes ago, not because I’m smart and worked it out, but simply because the events in the film didn’t in anyway develop any plausible alternative.
I described this movie to a friend as like waiting in a queue in a theme-park, only to find out the queue was the ride. I tolerated the films slow burn, I bought into its themes and characters, but in the end, once the credits rolled, I sat there feeling like I’d been scammed. The writing had a concept, a destination in mind, but some real liberties were taken with the execution. The writing was in no way strong enough to straddle that line of phycological vs. supernatural ambiguity (which has been done so well in many other films) with any level of success.
So is this films a really well polished turd?
Overall, that’s probably a little harsh, its technically a great film, but yeah, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The writing was very weak, but unfortunately you had to get to the end to really realise that; bluffed by the films effectiveness in other areas, its characters and atmosphere. As I said in my opener, hard to recommend. It’s a cool enough movie when you’re watching it, but then the ending leaves you just sitting there asking WTF? A real let down when it seemed to have the potential to be a great little gem. The films re-watch value is zero.