Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 16 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out slow burn horror Pyewacket. Let’s get to it:
Day 16 of 31: Pyewacket (2017)
Director: Adam MacDonald
Starring: Laurie Holden, Nicole Muñoz, Chloe Rose
IMDb Trivia: The name “Pyewacket” comes from the 1647 British pamphlet “The Discovery of Witches,” in which author Matthew Hopkins claims to have interrogated witches in Essex County. One witch names many familiars, including the spirit Pyewacket which appeared to her as some sort of animal.
Plot: A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl wakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
Review: You know when I was a kid and my parents got me angry, I would go for a walk in the park. These days kids are doing black magic and calling up demons to drag their parents’ souls to hell. Boy how things have changed.
Pyewacket tells the story of a teenage girl (Nicole Muñoz) who is dealing with the death of her dad. Her mom (Lauren Holden), who is also grief-stricken, has taken to dealing with her own pain by being overly strict with her daughter. And the wedge between them only gets worse when Mom decides to move them away from the “bad influences” of her daughter’s life and out to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. Leah is so upset by this she decides to try a spell to invoke the Pyewacket witch in the hopes she’ll get rid of her mom. But as they say, be careful what you do when you’re angry because you might not be able to take it back.
Pyewacket is one of those horror movies that relies heavily on its atmosphere and character development to scare you. It’s not about what you see MILD SPOILER ALERT BEGINS (like The Babadook you don’t get to see Pyewacket until the very end of the movie) MILD SPOILER ALERT ENDS but what you feel that gets under your skin, and director Adam MacDonald slowly builds the tension here until its near unbearable. Muñoz does a solid job of evoking Leah’s emotional journey through grief as her anger at her mother turns to regret and fear. This, and the tension building by MacDonald, is what takes Pyewacket up a notch or two over similar types of films.
While Muñoz’s acting is quite strong, it’s Laurie Holden as the abusive and at times manipulative mother that stands out. I remember how much fans hated Holden in The Walking Dead (not her fault, Andrea was a terribly-written character) and I think she channels some of that here and delivers a surprisingly effective performance. Watching her swing from loving to loathing made it easier to understand why her daughter Leah made the choices she made, and as the story progresses Holden becomes one of the most chilling things about Pyewacket.
Now it’s not perfect and it does require a bit of patience to view. The pacing was a bit uneven in certain areas and while I thoroughly enjoy well-crafted slow burn horror movies, I know they aren’t everyone’s cup o’ tea.
Still, I think Pyewacket is highly effective as an atmospheric horror movie that builds the tension to unbearable levels while telling a story of grief and how the loss of loved ones can sometimes tear those left behind apart instead of bringing them together. If slow burns are your jam feel free to check this one out this Halloween season.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
You can check out Part 15 of my 31 Days List and haunted house movie The Devil’s Candy below together with my review of Fear Street Part Three: 1666.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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