February 4, 2019 Wronged (Movie Review)
The Michigan woods are full of dark and deep secrets in the brand-new Horror-Thriller offering Wronged, which arrives to select theaters on Friday, February 8, 2019, thanks to Diamond Dead Media.
Married couple Andrea (Angela Roberts Johnson: Sometimes in Life 2008, Detroit Unleaded 2012) and David (Shaun O’Malley: Deceitful 2016, Lemon Eyes short 2017) have just lost their third child to a tragic miscarriage. Persuaded by their therapist (Wayne E. Brown: Courageous Love 2017, To Be a Soldier 2018) to take a family trip to the woods, the couple and their two young children — Michelle (Xylia Jenkins: The Substitute Spy 2016, Diamond Knight 2017) and Grayson (Ramoné Fleming in his acting debut) — head out to the family’s hunting cabin. There, they are joined by David’s father Gary (Dan Davies: Ed Gein: The Musical 2010, West of Thunder 2012), his brother Matt (Garrett Thierry: Deceitful 2016, Betrayed 2018), and his deaf wife Tina (Lillian Lamour: Be Your Wo/Man 2014, Hobo with a Trash Can 2015).
As the family begin to settle in for some good-old fashioned hunting, it immediately becomes clear that there’s trouble lurking in this forest. Somewhere nearby, two cops — Detectives Gardner (Grover McCants: Fatal Attraction TV docuseries, Be Somebody 2018) and Munsen (Kef Lee: Freaky Deaky 2012, Need for Speed 2014) — are accompanying wayward Nick (Connor McNeely in his acting debut) to recover a stash of counterfeit cash. When what should be a simple recon goes awry and they end up involved in a shoot-out, cold-hearted John (Matthew Siman: Age of Ice 2014, Moving Parts 2017) and his gang will take possession of the cash and start toward the Canadian border.
When John’s group of criminals clashes with David’s innocent family, the forest floor will be stained red as the two battle for vengeance in these once peaceful woods. Clocking in at 91 minutes, Wronged was written and directed by proud Michiganian Filmmaker Nicholas Holland (A Way Out 2011, Hunger Unholy 2013). It also features Joe Piazza (Lee Martin’s The Midnight Hour series, Betrayed 2018); Debra Harrison-Lowe (House of the Rising Sun 2011, Dark Lies series); Matt Acho (Hysteria short 2015, Year of Fear 2016); Dan Michael (Ride Along 2 2016, It Knows 2018); Jordan Kantola (Moorland 2014, Mindhunter series); Clayton Miles (Forward/Backward 2009, Moorland 2014); and Director Holland plays a role, as well.
Wronged bills itself as a Horror-Thriller “very much in the vein of Wolf Creek with a little The River Wild” and “elements of Deliverance, Hatchet and Wrong Turn.” Bold claims, indeed. The reality of the film? It’s a Survivalist Thriller with elements of the revenge Horror that is not even remotely comparable to the aforementioned films. Why is this, you ask?
Well, as Wronged traffics in heavy emotion and wants its audience to eat up mountains of intensity that ultimately lead to its revenge-filled horrors, there needs to be a proper foundation to build said intensity upon. Unfortunately, the film never establishes this or develops any of its characters enough for viewers to become invested or, at the basest level, intrigued. Our first introduction to David, who is perhaps the most well-rounded (and still painfully flat) of the characters, is to witness him detailing the loss of his unborn child to his therapist. O’Malley’s emotion is highly forced and his lines read as scripted, which does not set an emotional precedent or even establish him as a particularly likable guy. Furthermore, practically before we even meet the couple’s two young children, one of them is dead. Simply put, Wronged initially moves far too fast to properly establish its characters and, to add insult to injury, fails at developing their emotional frailty.
With this in mind, everything that is piled upon this flimsy foundation is merely doomed to fail. Characters are introduced and immediately killed, others linger but are never properly developed, and it all becomes difficult to empathize with the loss of any one of these individuals. When the film picks up its gore factor and tries for gruesome revenge kills, the overall effect is flat as the audience have never become invested in these characters’ survival in the first place. In short, it all amounts to blood spraying across leaves — it has some gory moments, but so do many films.
Whether the ensemble cast alone could have saved this fatally flawed production is anyone’s guess, but they are too heavily mixed as far as talents to fully boost this sinking ship. O’Malley (David) spends much of the film vacillating between being affectless and giving bored recitations of his lines. There are moments where he falls into character, yes, but they are few and far between. Meanwhile, Roberts Johnson (Andrea) is a beautiful actress who was simply not meant for this role — she spends much of her on screen time looking like a victim of shock, although she does grow a bit feistier towards the end of the film. Jenkins (Michelle), Davies (Gary), Thierry (Matt), and Lamour (Tina) all tread water in their roles, though they are given very little to work with.
The good news? Though John is never developed fully enough to be as truly menacing as he could have been, Siman breathes an intensity and richness into his role that provides at least a believable catalyst for evil. He fully owns the role and is properly brooding with moments of vile intensity, and we believe that he is a rotten dude. Similarly, though his time on screen is seriously limited, McCants’ Detective Gardner delivers one of the most powerful performances of the film, in an authoritative and strong voice that proves, given better material, he could truly shine.
These are the positives, though the myriad other issues with Wronged are fairly standard for a low-budget flick: from inconsistent audio to cheaply done special effects makeup to poorly choreographed fight scenes. If you’re merely watching for the gore factor, there’s an attempt to be shocking but, without that much needed intense mood underlying the horrors, they all feel a bit unsatisfying and fail to be truly disturbing solely by themselves.
Here’s the thing: when you are establishing a film that requires its characters to race through the woods battling it out in a game of survival, each actor needs to be engaged and always relaying the emotional heft of their situation. That situation needs a proper groundwork to lure an audience in, hook them, and keep them invested in the well-being of said characters. When everything comes together in a flim-flam, it all just amounts to people racing around in the woods screaming.
The flaws of Wronged are too fatal to ever be overcome, and this includes its script that, at best, would have amounted to another banal entry into the Survivalist Thriller landscape. Because a darkly disturbing atmosphere was never established, all of the kills here just feel pointless and the adrenaline rush that oft comes with a truly gripping revenge Horror is decidedly lacking. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Wronged 2.5 of 5 stars.