March 19, 2018 Pyewacket (Movie Review)
Be careful what your angsty teenage blood desires, because it just might come true! So goes the basic premise and the moral at the heart of the rocking new Canadian Horror/Thriller offering, Pyewacket, which arrives in theaters and On Demand on Friday, March 23, 2018, thanks to IFC Midnight.
Struggling under the weight of the loss of her husband, Mrs. Reyes (Laurie Holden: The Walking Dead series, The Americans series) is developing some issues with wine, and perhaps not being the best mother to her “goth” teenage daughter, the heartagram-wearing Leah (Nicole Muñoz: The Last Mimzy 2007, Tooth Fairy 2010). Realizing that the pair are haunted by the past in their large colonial home in the ‘burbs, Mom decides to move them to a quaint little cabin in the woods with barely a month’s notice.
Of course, the worst nightmare of any teenager struggling through the emotional rollercoaster that is high school is being forced to pack up and move mid-semester to a town an hour away, where they know absolutely no one. As Leah spirals into a panic-filled depression over the thought of leaving behind her best friends, her mother attempts to offer up an olive branch in the form of allowing her to finish-out the school year before transferring her to a new school closer to their new home. Not placated, Leah turns to her Blackcraft Cult-wearing friends: Janice (Chloe Rose: Degrassi: Next Class series, Teenagers series short), who promises she would choose Billy Corgan over any boy at school; punky Rob (Romeo Carere: Don’t Talk to Irene 2017); and Leah’s love interest, Aaron (Eric Osborne: Degrassi: The Next Generation series, Degrassi: Next Class series).
When her relationship with her mother grows even more strained due to the move, as a lover of the occult and all things dark and Gothic, Leah decides to explore some obscure avenues in resolving her mother-daughter issues. Unfortunately, she will quickly learn that you must always be very careful what you wish for, because you never know who might be out there listening. Clocking in at 90 minutes in-length, Pyewacket was written and directed by Adam MacDonald (In the Dominican short 2010, Backcountry 2014) and is this talented director’s second feature-length offering to date.
In 1958’s Bell, Book and Candle, Pyewacket was the Siamese cat that stole the show, though Pyewacket is a name also associated with a children’s novel, an orchid, and, most importantly in this instance, a witch’s familiar. In this incarnation, Pyewacket is a formless dark spirit who can be summoned with a black magic ritual and the spilling of some blood – which plays deliciously into the film’s Horror/Thriller billing. This Pyewacket is just that: a wonderful new offering in the Occult/Supernatural subgenre of Horror.
Despite lacking a gratuitous amount of gore or violence, Pyewacket maintains an intensity throughout with its use of a steady, tension-building pace, excellent scripting, and superb acting from its ensemble cast. Carrying the bulk of the weight of the entire production, Muñoz does a solid job of depicting the inner and outer turmoils of being a teenager, let alone, a teen with an emotionally-troubled mother. While she is perhaps not the most convincing “goth,” she does a good job of portraying a teenage character open to the lusty allure of black magic and the occult. Holden, as her mother, does an equally good job of portraying a mother figure, tormented by the tragic loss of her husband, yet trying to cling to a “normal” life for the sake of her daughter.
What’s particularly fun about Pyewacket is its soundtrack, which includes the likes of Black Metal masters Carach Angren (Leah sports a patch with the band’s logo on her backpack), Interpol, Ministry, I Killed The Prom Queen, Weeknight, Lords of the New Church, and Rey Pila. If you are going to craft a darkly haunting teen Horror flick, this is a divine musical score. Props for that!
Ultimately, Pyewacket works wonderfully with its script, visuals (thanks to beautiful Ontario, Canada), and cast to create a truly haunting, creeptastic film. Okay, sure, it will appeal most to teenagers – and there is even a life lesson baked in there for them – but this is a film that can easily hold the interest of non-teens, too.
Truly a great new entry to occult-themed Horror, Pyewacket is a promising Canadian film that shows that all things spine-tingling and spookylicious are very much alive with our neighbors to the North. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Pyewacket 4 of 5 stars.