A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
Pyewacket is an ominous word. It seems harmless enough on the surface, a childish nonsense invective but when you really listen to the word…there’s just something about it that is off. Maybe it’s the way the word can be said as a swear, or uttered in prayer, with a low guttural sound, a harsh bark and a naming convention for a black magic ritual.
Pyewacket is also an unsettling horror film brought to us by Backcountry director, Adam MacDonald. This film is black magic gone wrong, represented in all the right ways. The dread creeps and compounds in Jaws-like fashion. The truth of the situation is always hard to read and this movie really brings that home time and again. In fact one could argue that the one true theme of this film is belief, in not being able to trust what you know.
“Be careful what you believe in.” This line is uttered by an author of occult literature to our heroine Leah (played well by Nicole Muñoz), and it truly defines the experience of watching this film. We the viewers are never quite sure what is actually happening as events unfold, and even at the very end there is doubt as to the fate of our protagonist.
This is due largely in part to the fine script by MacDonald. He throws you right in the mix, you the viewer are a part of the lived in lives of these people on screen, as much a visitor as Pyewacket itself. The audience is challenged to make inferences about the lives on display here and it plays out really well, and helps keep the movie from becoming too predictable. Couple that with a mother who is dealing with the stress of grief and loss poorly and a teenage girl dealing with loss and upheaval and the occult. We watch as these elements all slowly coalesce to a fine finish to the film.
Also on display here some some stunning cinematography by Christian Bielz. The use of drone shots kept the movie flowing constantly and stopped things from getting stagnant when it was just Leah or her mom on screen, and Bielz has a fantastic eye for composition of shots. The cinematography is, in my opinion, what sets this story apart from others in the same vein.
The story does little to break new ground, and even tips its hat a bit in the second and third act. Which brings me to my only real critique of the film,this is a smart film but it gets dumbed down a bit by having to explain what exactly is going on and I felt that these exposition dumps, once with a group of friends and then again with the renowned writer over skype, disrupted the mystery and the tension the creators spent almost two acts growing.
Ultimately Pyewacket is deserving of your attention and worth a rent off of Amazon, the elevator pitch should have been, “What if wishing harm on another went a little too far?” I could go into more detail and would if it didn’t end up veering into spoiler territory.So just take my recommendation and check this one out as soon as possible..