Starring: Joey Arena, Andrew Burch, Morgan Dayton, Micheal Dickens
Directed and Written by: Brian Cunningham
Running time: 89 minutes
Reviewed by Dan Oles
I’m probably one of the few who willing admits to liking the Found Footage genre. Ever since The Blair Witch Project maximized profit from a minimum budget there have been indie groups and big name studios alike trying to squeeze the potential of a (at the time) fresh approach to storytelling with a low overhead but almost guaranteed big returns. The problem is that The Blair Witch Project didn’t just inspire the concept of discovered footage, it defined it. With incredibly few exceptions all Found Footage films have been college age or younger people bickering into shaky cameras until they are attacked and killed off by barely visible supernatural enemies.
This is similar to a blockbuster Star Wars not just inspiring a renaissance of science fiction but unfortunately creating a slew of largely uncreative imitators. It’s one thing to admire high concept films…it’s another to copy a successful formula down to props and plot point just to hopefully edge into the shadow of a giant.
Wretch, down to the similar sounding title (‘Wretch…Witch’) is an example of a mega fan acquiring the resources to try and make their own dent in what is by now a crowded landscape. But THIS time they’ll outdo their own inspiration by upping the ante on sex and violence. Witch had no nudity and Wretch does so Wretch is…better. Presumably. Same with splattering blood. The Blair Witch Project only had a minor instance of gore so Wretch will step things up and thereby make a name for itself on controversy alone. We even have women kissing each other. How scandalous…several years ago.
This doesn’t take into account that ‘Blair Witch with violence and more explicit elements’ has already been done with other series. Rec. Paranormal Activity. The latest sequel to The Blair Witch Project (just called Blair Witch) had more splatter and swearing itself.
Certainly Wretch practically becomes soft-core porn, but is that really enough to differentiate it from an onslaught of contemporary horror films also obsessed with pushing the envelope of sex and violence? Wretch tries so hard to be edgy and ahead of the curb it ends up looking and feeling try hard and wan.
So what are we left with if the attempt at controversy is a failure? Generally the acting is okay in the scenes of naturalistic dialogue, but clearly the more intense dramatics are a step above the amateur abilities of the cast. Nothing embarrassing but nothing groundbreaking.
Wretch attempts to blend the raw and immediate sensibility of The Blair Witch Project’s shaky cameras and improvised scenes with the slow and deliberate unraveling of a relationship drama and angsty art movie. These are not things that blend well. Choosing one path might have tightened the incongruous flow of the production but as stands the Found Footage sections bleed into deliberately shot and composed ‘movie’ sequences. We go from what is clearly a group of people being shot by someone behind a camera to single shot interviews with the characters and then, without transition, to scenes which could not have been shot by anything other than a studio camera on a dolly or a crane and include in-camera effects like slow motion, quick cuts, dramatic music, and deliberately evocative lighting choices.
The charm of Found Footage films is they feel like recovered instances of recordings. This added to the realism of the scenarios. Even though Wretch has some really impressive practical effects to make the more bizarre events nearly plausible, the flip flop between camera footage and film is incredibly jarring throughout. Not to mention the general demographic going to see a supernatural horror or psychological horror tale is probably not going to be incredibly interested in a very involved love triangle.
The effects work IS a giant plus. There’s a penultimate occurrence which is one of the best instances of modern horror creature makeup I’ve seen in a long while. But it’s hidden behind a wall of whiny characters sitting in one place usually to talk constantly about their problems, a failed disjointed experiment at uniting Found Footage and conventional filmmaking, and a collection of familiar elements that can charitably be called homage and uncharitably be called plagiarism.
There’s a lot of work here in the acting and the realization of Wretch, but much more should have been paid to making the vision and the pacing much more consistent.
Anti-Hero The Motion Comic Series
Episode 1 (Watch for Free!) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmmouuBlWTk&t=49s