Plot: Leah (Nicole Munoz) has had an interest in the occult since her father’s death, the tales of a world beyond our own bring her comfort. After all, if such an afterlife exists, then he isn’t gone, just somewhere else. She and her friends research various rituals and other occult elements, but none of them take the dark arts as seriously as Leah. At the same time, she tries to navigate a complicated relationship with her mother (Laurie Holden), who is unable to move on after her husband’s death. The two fight almost constantly and when Leah learns she is moving to a new town, she is heartbroken and wants to stay where she is. After an especially nasty confrontation with her mother, Leah storms into the woods and performs a ritual to summon a demon, an entity known as Pyewacket who will prey upon her mother. But is the ritual just folklore and ghost stories, or has Leah awoken an ancient evil in the forest?
Entertainment Value: If you’re a fan of horror movies, you can stop here and just go watch Pyewacket, it is simply that good. A super tight, atmospheric, and eerie chiller that never lets up, Pyewacket delivers on the horror elements, but also makes sure the story and characters are well developed. The narrative here feels so natural, as a young girl and her mother struggle with intense grief in their own ways, each sometimes pushed beyond the brink of what they can cope with. This is what leads to emotional outbursts, confrontations, and the eventual ritual that takes the situation into a place much darker than expected. The pace is brisk, though never rushed and the slow burn atmosphere feels organic and effective throughout. This one is also quite efficient, with little filler and no real wasted moments, even simple jump scares are well executed and add to the building tension. Nicole Munoz is great in the lead and really shines in the wake of her ritual, while Laurie Holden is excellent as the troubled mother. The two have some intense scenes and both handle them with immense skill, the bond feels real and that is crucial to Pyewacket’s success. I found this to be a masterful horror movie, one that hits all the right notes and never disappoints. As soon as Pyewacket ended, I couldn’t wait to watch it again, that’s how good this movie is.
No nakedness. The movie has some suitably awkward talk about young love, but no sexual content is found in this one. A little blood, including a nice self inflicted wound, but not much. This movie leans on atmosphere to provide the horror elements and isn’t a body count driven picture, so the gore isn’t missed. The bloodshed is low, but the eerie tension is high and Pyewacket knows how to build suspense, draping the movie in thick, effective atmosphere. This only intensifies after the ritual, when that atmosphere takes much more intense, darker turns. The dialogue is great, between natural feeling teen talk and the explosive encounters between Leah and her mother. The latter provide some intense, wild moments and even before the ritual, some of the conversations are dark and memorable. Holden really nails her role and she brings a bold, dark presence that helps us understand how alienated Leah feels from her mother. The movie takes a grounded approach to horror, with realistic characters and relationships, so even once the ritual takes place, things still feel believable. In other words, it is intense and gets a little wild, but it never feels over the top or outlandish. The finale and the more dark, dysfunctional elements earn a some insanity point however, without question.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: This movie is bathed in darkness, so the visual presentation needs to be on point and this Blu-ray from IFC Midnight & Scream Factory more than delivers on that front. The dark visuals are razor sharp, with superb fine detail and no signs of softness whatsoever. The contrast is crucial here and the shadow look fantastic, with no loss of detail and the visuals remain distinct, regardless of how dark the scenes are, no small feat in this case. The disc’s extras include a seventeen minute look behind the scenes, as well as the film’s trailer.