New Horror Releases: Pyewacket (2017) - Reviewed

Adam MacDonald’s heavy metal occult horror film Pyewacket is a surprisingly effective and chilling psychodrama, a gritty-slow burn that is reminiscent of films such as Devil’s Candy, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, The Monster, and It Follows. Opting for an authentic coming-of-age tale, Pyewacket features terrific camerawork, an outstanding and moody score, a fine performance from Nicole Muñoz, and some truly chilling and downright terrifying moments. 

The story is simple and effective. After her father’s death, angsty teen, Leah (played by Nicole Muñoz), is forced by her grieving mother to move to a house in the woods, far away from her school and friends. Feeling angry and isolated, Leah turns to black magic and performs an occult ritual summoning the Pyewacket to come and kill her mother. Stricken by guilt and a host of creepy occurrences, she must attempt to reverse the ritual or suffer from the wrath of Pyewacket. MacDonald does an excellent job of slowly building tension and fear until the shocking finale reveals all. The characters are flawed but completely relatable. Most viewers should be able to understand what Leah and her mother are going through, creating a compelling drama that contains a situation involving the occult. How many of us would be tempted to summon a demon because of some issues on our own lives?

The direction and cinematography are excellent, employing a host of camera techniques to create a sense of realism you don’t typically see. Crossing somewhere between cinéma vérité, documentary, and found footage, Pyewacket’s camerawork breaths an air of reality that only enhances the terror and dread that exists in this world. Another technique employed by MacDonald is showing the POV of the entity as it moves around and follows the characters, similar to what Sam Raimi did with the Evil Dead franchise. The score is outstanding and further enhances the atmosphere that MacDonald has creating with the visuals. It’s use of string instruments and pulsating sounds further ratchets up a sense of fear that is in the air.

The acting is superb from the very small ensemble, almost similar to what a small stage play would have. The beauty of the performances is that they are grounded and realistic, nothing about them feels over-the-top. MacDonald opts to play an extremely slow hand with his actors, delivering authentic performances that only further aid in the delivering a shocking twist at the end. 

Pyewacket is an effective and frightening film dealing with the occult. If you didn’t enjoy any of the films mentioned above, then this may be too slow for you. Otherwise, you would end up agreeing with me, Pyewacket is one of the best horror films of 2018, so far.

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