★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Kids these days, amirite?
I have to say I’m starting to keep my eye on Cave Painting Pictures. They’re the Canadian production company responsible for the fun, throwback horror movie The Void (2017). They were also nice enough to give us the festival of teen angst and demonology that I just finished watching: Pyewacket (2018). Who says Canada can’t be scary?
Writer/director Adam MacDonald spent a couple of decades on the other side of the lens before getting into writing & directing his own material, with Pyewacket being the second full-length feature he’s both written and directed. I can’t speak for his first foray behind the camera but judging by his sophomore attempt, I’d say expect good things from this fella.
Our movie centers on angsty teen Leah (Nicole Muñoz; Tooth Fairy (2010), Netflix’s Hemlock Grove) and her strained relationship with her mother (Laurie Holden; AMC’s The Walking Dead) after losing her father the year prior. Laurie Holden does a great job as someone who’s still more broken than not after the death of her spouse; sometimes holding it together, sometimes drinking heavily and lashing out. The writing for the conversations between the two women isn’t always the best thing ever, but it gets the point across and does provide for some scenes of genuine warmth between them. It also highlights some moments of parental imperfection as Leah’s method of dealing with her own inner turmoil takes it’s toll on her fragile mother. “Every time I look at you I see your father’s face. I wish I could just… wipe it off,” isn’t exactly something you’d like to hear from your mom. Add Leah’s pentagram-wearing, occult-obsessed group of friends into the mix, and mom is just about at her wit’s end.
Her solution? Why, move to a great big house out in the middle of the spooky forest, of course! A move that does not sit well with young Leah who will be required to switch schools. The thought of leaving her friends behind and starting over at a new school pushes Leah right over the edge and, in stereotypical impulsive teen fashion, sends her running out into the middle of the forest to perform some dark witchery. Dark witchery designed to call forth an unsavory entity to kill her mom. Oh, you kids and your death curses! Let’s hope it’s just a phase.
Once things start getting a bit weird, Leah regrets calling upon the forces of darkness and starts looking for a way to stop the curse; up to and including a brief Roddy-McDowall-in-Fright-Night moment where she calls her favorite writer of occult books, Rowan Dove (James McGowan; Suicide Squad (2016)), hoping to get some help. Can Leah stop the curse before Laurie Holden gets killed again? (Poor Andrea). Does Rowan Dove always use video chat when talking to people on the phone or was this a special occasion? You’ll have to see for yourself!
And I mean that for just about anyone. This is another slow burner of a movie. A wee bit too slow in a couple of spots, but bear with it through those. The tension builds slowly, but it does steadily build and sets up a fantastic climax. Assuming you can handle the tension, this would be a great entry-level movie for someone wanting to get their feet wet on the witchcraft/occult side of things. There’s very little blood, nothing gory, a few mild jump scares, but that’s not really where the soul of this film lies. Its strength is in the tension and growing creepiness as things slowly spiral out of control.
Pyewacket can be found streaming on Amazon and wherever else witchcrafty movies like to hang out these days.