Pyewacket (CIFF 2017)

Watching Pyewacket is like riding a roller coaster, generally having a good time while on it, and then having it abruptly come to a stop halfway down the final descent. It feels like the first 60 minutes of a good 90-minute film. Just when things start to get really fun, it ends. It tries to go for a chaotic conclusion with a “shock” at the very end, but none of that quite lands. I guess that means the vast majority of the ride is enjoyable, except you’ll leave with a bad taste in your mouth. Weird how that can happen.

The film follows Leah (Nicole Muñoz), an angsty teen often at odds with her mother (Laurie Holden). They move into a house in the woods, uprooting Leah’s entire life, so she decides to put a curse upon her mother in a fit of rage. Turns out, the ritual worked, and now there’s a certain something that’s after her mother and, possibly, Leah.

All of that is a lot of fun, and it’s made even more enjoyable because we get an understanding of who these people are and why they’re acting the way they do. Like in director Adam MacDonald‘s prior film, Backcountry, the characters are given depth and complexity, so we can both understand their actions and begin to care what happens to them. Pyewacket takes just enough time to get going and set the scene, builds a solid atmosphere, has a couple of scares, and then goes for chaos and shock at the end and can’t stick the landing. It’s so good up until this point.

Conclusion: Pyewacket is a really solid horror movie … until the ending, which leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.

Recommendation: Pyewacket is a fun enough ride to recommend even with the ending as it is.

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