The Wretched is a functional if largely forgettable horror pic

A new horror coming to cinemas sees a teenager uncover occult goings-on in the house next door. The Wretched may be functional, writes Steve Newall, but it’s largely forgettable.

Despite technically being a box office success story, joining the ranks of Titanic, Black Panther and The Sixth Sense with a six week run atop the US box office, The Wretched looks set to be relegated to footnotes and movie quiz questions as something of a trivia-friendly outlier. Having opened during the Covid-19 pandemic, the film has yet to break the $2 million mark Stateside, and you’re not going to find anything approaching “I see dead people” pop culture resonance in this functional if largely forgettable horror pic.

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Around the same time teenage Ben goes to live with his father amid a parental divorce, something creepy comes out of the woods and takes up residence in the house next door. Struggling to acclimatise to his new surroundings, and made fun of by his fellow teens while working at the local marina, Ben starts breaking out the binoculars and checking out the neighbours like a regular ol’ creep—really starting to get suspicious when their son doesn’t show up for a sailing lesson and the dad next door doesn’t seem to have any recollection of his existence.

It’s that brainwashing element that stretches The Wretched’s premise beyond a simple possession scenario, as Ben goes on to discover the folklore history of an entity that preys on the forgotten. You’d think this would tie in nicely with the anxiety of a child living through the divorce of their parents, but that particular plot point seems only to exist to deliver Ben to the film’s remote location and allow him a strained relationship with his dad (and his dad’s new girlfriend).

Look, it’s fine, even if proving as forgettable as its evil entity’s victims—there’s not a lot to roundly criticise in this low budget effort, just as there’s not a lot to recommend. While there could have been plenty more meat on its bones, it’s a reason to at least keep an eye on its debuting director team to see what they come up with on a sophomore outing.