For a while there, it felt like you couldn’t watch a horror flick without stumbling across a shuffling animated corpse or a creature of the night as everything from vampires and zombies was thrust at us. And while there has been a significant shift in the genre with films like Get Out, Raw, Don’t Breathe, and the recent A Quiet Place have proven to offer new light in the dark world we love so much, there has also been a growing development in stories around the Occult.
Stemming from The Witch and Netflix’s The Ritual, folk horror is definitely on the rise and with the impact that Hereditary has had on the cinema audience, you can sure as hell expect that this will spell the beginning of delving into the dark arts in film once again.
Which is why I felt it a good time to resurrect a discussion around a movie that was doing the rounds at festival circuits last year called Pyewacket.
This sophomore outing from director Adam MacDonald following his debut feature Backcountry, stars Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead, The Americans) and Nicole Muñoz who play out a fractured mother/daughter relationship.
Holden strikes a formidable force on-screen as the over-bearing mother, who is barely keeping it together following the death of her husband and trying to support her only daughter, Leah.
Whilst she is pained by how much Leah looks like her husband, the manner in which she expresses this to her daughter is beyond cruel and makes it hard to warm to her.
And yet Holden can flip the switch and show compassion and caring that makes you question how you could have felt so ill towards her. It’s a terrific performance and amplifies how much she should be in more movies.
Muñoz more than holds her own against Holden as she is forced to move away from all that she knows, in a wooded terrain in the back of beyond.
When her mother poses the notion of moving schools, thus segregating her further from all that she knows, Leah delves into her passion for the occult as a way to self-regulate her emotions in all the wrong ways.
We empathise with her plight despite her drastic methods to evoke a witch in order to kill her mother in a fit of rage, anger and turmoil.
Once the wheels are in motion and the spirit is on its destructive path, the tension mounts as Leah struggles to take back her actions and stop the creature at all costs.
This movie deserves more recognition than it has received thus far. Not only does it tackle what could easily be remised for teenage angst, Pyewacket offers powerful performances in a slow-burn drama that s believable and tension-packed to its conclusion.
- Saul Muerte