Leah is a teenage girl who becomes increasingly frustrated with her newly widowed mother, who decides to relocate them both to an isolated house in the woods somewhere. Leah now finds herself more or less trapped in a house with an erratic mother, far away from her friends and the life she used to know. The frustrated teen gets her hands on a black magic book, and out in the woods nearby she ends up crossing a line she can never retrace back from.
Pyewacket is a supernatural horror/mystery thriller, directed by Adam MacDonald (who also directed the third season of the horror series Slasher). The “Pyewacket” was actually one of the supposed familiar spirits of a witch from back in 1644, where Matthew Hopkins (witchfinder general) accused her of witchcraft and had her arrested. It has later been referenced in novels and other media, including William Friedkin’s The Guardian (where the nanny brings a toy she calls “Pyewacket”).
Now, a plot concerning a frustrated teen wanting to kill her own mom with black magic, sounds a little bit cheesy perhaps. But this movie plays out the story in a very serious tone, and it works. Both the daughter and mother are portrayed in both a positive and negative light – they’re both grieving, but in different ways and separate from each other, but it’s obvious that they’re not really in tune with the other’s feelings and needs, and thus they’re both coming off as quite self-centered. While Leah finds comfort by hanging around with friends and dabbling in the occult, the mother wants to rid herself of everything that reminds her of her dead husband, thus forcing through the relocation to the house in the woods. This is where Leah eventually loses all her patience, and only wants to get rid of her own mother by using a black magic ritual.
Much of the excitement comes from not knowing exactly what is happening. Is there really a murderous supernatural entity, or is Leah imagining everything? One could probably define this movie as a little bit of a slow-burn, but instead of fizzling out in nonsense or nothingness, it delivers a final act that keeps your attention throughout. Much of the build-up is to ensure that the viewer understands the tension between mother and daughter, and to give Leah’s actions a bit more credence through proper character-building. Once Leah has performed the occult rituals, however, she quickly regrets everything…but of course, what’s done cannot be undone. Which is often the case when people commit actions in a fit of rage without thinking anything properly through, which is not an uncommon thing to find in broken family dynamics.
Overall, Pyewacket is an entertaining horror thriller that keeps your attention and manages to pack in a few chills.
Director: Adam MacDonald
Country & year: Canada, 2017
Actors: Laurie Holden, Nicole Muñoz, Chloe Rose, Eric Osborne, Romeo Carere, Bianca Melchior, James McGowan, Victoria Sanchez, Neil Whitely, Missy Peregrym