Movie review: Pyewacket (2017)

Pyewacket (2017)

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  • Laurie Holden as Mrs. Reyes
  • Nicole Muñoz as Leah
  • Chloe Rose as Janice
  • Eric Osborne as Aaron
  • James McGowan as Rowan Dove
  • Bianca Melchior as Pyewacket

Without spoilers

Mothers and daughters can have fraught relationships, and Leah (Nicole Muñoz) and her mother (Laurie Holden) are no exception. Her father has recently passed away and neither of them are dealing with it healthily. Leah has started getting into the Occult, her bedroom is full of books and moody posters, and although it at first seems like a morbid teen rebellion – and quite understandable – after an epic fight with her mum, Leah angrily storms into the woods and starts slicing into her arm, trying to summon ‘Pyewacket’ to rid her of her mother. Bad move, Leah. At first nothing happens, but then odd occurrences start to mount up. Was her ritual successful, or has she really gone off the deep end?

Pyewacket (it’s fun to type!) fully gets that ‘nothing’ is usually scarier and wrings every bit of tension out of that. It’s closer to Paranormal Activity than the more overt Insidious, using shadow and suggestion to creep us out. The camera makes us very intimate with Leah too; we’re often pressed up uncomfortably near to her face, watching her reactions, the snap of her emotions, sucked right into her point of view. Leah seems to feel trapped in the repetitive routine of School, drinking with friends and moping at home, whilst being driven, sulking next to her mother. It’s clear that she’s still very much a child and her efforts to kick her way out of that role sends her down a darker and darker path.

I found Pyewacket fascinating and sad, and can highly recommend it for some deeply uneasy, mostly very subtle, horror. Like Hereditary on a sliver of the budget. Pyewacket requires applying a little empathy – but then most good horror, the kind that stays with you, does. If demons really exist, then please don’t mess with them. Their deals rarely turn out the way you hope. Just steal your mum’s credit card instead.

WARNING MASSIVE Spoilers in the section below that make more sense after you’ve watched it:

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Paranormal Activity (2009) Dir Oren Peli

Who ya gonna call? No one, it turns out…

Yes, the ‘found footage’ genre is pretty overused these days. It’s cheap, it’s ‘realistic’ and it takes about five minutes to see results. But, in the right hands it can be extremely effective. The trick seems to be not to overcomplicate things. And keep the cast small, and have a decent reason to have a video camera on all the time whilst awful things are happening – as even in Cloverfield it was pushing it.

Paranormal Activity uses all of these strengths to great advantage, and strongly hints that just filming the events has exacerbated the whole problem. It’s a slick, streamlined piece of work with a decent pair of actors, who more or less carry the whole thing. Katie (Katie Featherstone) has been aware since childhood of a menacing presence that would stand over her at night. She lives with her boyfriend of three years, Micah (Micah Sloat) in their San Diego house, and he’s keen to get the spookfest going. He buys a very expensive videocamera and sets it up to watch their bed at night. He also enjoys taunting whatever might be out there. Idiot.

Their initial footage is fairly boring, but gradually things get weirder, and the first time a VERY LOUD NOISE comes from their attic is extremely unsettling, and it just gets better and better from there. Also, you will want to knock some sense into Micah way before the end. He repeatedly calls out the increasingly threatening presence, daring it to show itself and only making things worse for Katie, and the thing’s intentions gradually become horrendously clear.

Due to some slack download time on the PS3 – in HD – we ended up watching this in the middle of the night, when most of this film is set! This definitely helped with feeling the atmosphere, and we weren’t brave enough to watch it with the lights out. After all the horror movies I’ve ever watched, it’s still amazing how effective a deep reverby-bassline and a slamming door can be when the people onscreen are freaking out too. It’s also a lot better than watching Yvette Fielding scream her head off in a shed in Norwich, too, as you start to really care about this hapless couple.

Highly recommended, as it does exactly what it’s supposed to – just have a little patience, and be braver than we were and just TRY to watch this with the lights off! Prepare to be freaked out.