Pyewacket is an American horror movie written and directed by Adam MacDonald, an actor turned into filmmaker who I have a strong respect for.
After his debut horror flick Backcountry (2014, a decent low-budget movie), Blumhouse offered him a big fat paycheck for the rights of Pyewacket: rumours state that, after agreeing at first, MacDonald took a step back because he couldn’t stand the interferences from the studio created by Jason Blum. Furthermore, when I met MacDonald at a little festival in London (where I got the chance to watch Pyewacket in advance, last October), I asked me about said rumour and, very humbly, he didn’t confirm nor deny it, stating only that he was quite happy with the end result of his movie. Gotta love the guy!
His latest movie, Pyewacket, which is only now getting a VOD wide release, introduces us to the character of Leah Reyes (played by Nicole Munoz), a goth, angsty teenager with a grieving mother (scream queen Laurie Holden) who constantly pisses her off. This conflict goes to the extreme when Leah is forced to move to another house and change school; therefore, as every regular teen would do, she decides to summon a demon to kill her own mother. Perhaps, she didn’t think that through enough…
To begin with, the relationship between mother and daughter is extremely interesting: Leah, masterfully played by Munoz (who I had no familiarity with prior to this film), is very likable and relatable, albeit quite flawed. Mrs Reyes, instead, is largely unlikable, but that works because the viewer can understand what drove her to be the way she is.
In general, for a low-budget horror flick, Pyewacket features good performances all-around.
Another aspect I highly appreciated in the movie was its technical execution: I’d say that 95 or 98% of Pyewacket is filmed through hand-held camera, which gives it a nauseating feeling, backed up by the eerie sound design, extremely neat and crisp. For example, you could hear noises related to every single movement of the characters, a brave choice because it could have turned the film into a very frustrating experience (that’s actually how my girlfriend perceived it).
MacDonald’s effort to create something original is evident with Pyewacket. This up-and-coming director shows in the movie great respect towards the audience by not tricking them with silly jump-scares and horror tropes. However, I must warn my readers that this is a slow-burner (really slow, to be honest). As such, I’m quite positive many people might find it dull and boring.
To be fair, my main complaint with Pyewacket is indeed that, during the second act, it takes a humongous dive and becomes excruciatingly uneventful. Thankfully, the viewer is still engrossed in the characters but, story-wise, there are 20 minutes of Pyewacket that feel, indeed, dull.
Yet, the movie features many brief establishment shots, where the camera points to the beautiful locations used in the film but nothing really happens. I truly didn’t get the point in utilising such a technique in a movie that’s already very slow.
The ending, however, is really great (in all its ambiguity) and give an extra layer to the movie, since the viewer is compelled into trying to figure out the meaning of the film itself.
In conclusion, Pyewacket was rather frustrating for me, since the first 30 minutes and the last 10/15 are fantastic and showcase how this could have been one of the best horror movies in recent years. However, the potential of Pyewacket isn’t fulfilled at all and that’s really a shame. As I said before, some people will find the film boring and, although I can very much understand the criticism, it’s why I can’t really recommend the movie without this little warning.
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My review is also available on IMDb – Pyewacket