Television

The Wretched Lives Up to Its Name

Violent, gory, and extremely incomprehensible

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The Wretched. Available now on various streaming sites and on-demand channels.

It's really still a few weeks until the official clickoff date for Summer Popcorn Television, but the studios want to get their product out before we're all dead of the plague. So here's a few cool things about The Wretched, produced by IFC and debuting today just about everywhere probably including on your Etch-a-Sketch.

• It has three separate production credits for a guy named Erik Porn, who's actually a real person. And you thought your parents were swine!

• There's another credit to an instructional video (which, even before you dazedly click on it, has more than a million YouTube views) titled How To Field Dress/Gut A Deer Fast And Easy Upside Down! that takes cinema verité to whole new levels. ("The first thing you want to do is go to the old butthole here…")

• There is no need for me to post a bunch of dreary spoiler-alerts anywhere in this entire review because The Wretched is the most incomprehensible moving image ever seen outside the Czech art-film circuit.

How a simple teenager-meets-a-creepy-haunted-house show ever went so barbarically off-course will be studied for decades in film schools all around the world (except the Czech Republic, which knows a thing or two about this). Suffice it to say that brothers Brett and Drew T. Pierce, who wrote and directed The Wretched, are bad writers and worse directors, though a good argument could be made that they are bad directors and worse writers. I've seen deer-gutting videos that made more sense.

Here's what I can say with confidence about The Wretched. It's set in the mid-1980s and patterned (and even makes a few hat-tips to) the teen horror and sci-fi flocks of that era, including The Goonies and Fright Night. Hunkish Jean-Paul Howard (Midnight, Texas) is Ben, the new kid in town for the summer, equipped with all the usual teenage appurtenances: estranged parents, latent hostility for his dad's new lady friend, and a propensity for breaking into neighboring homes.

This last makes him suspect something off-kilter is going on across the street, though his new girlfriend Mallory (Disney Channel vet Piper Curda) is not convinced by the subtle clues he's picked up. Ben, speaking of the dad next door: "Why would you say you didn't have a kid when you do?" Mallory: "Maybe he's just a private person."

Or maybe a really mean tree is turning everybody into pod-people, pod-deer, and pod-bunny rabbits. At least, that's what I think was happening. Between the slurry, cryptic dialog, the murkily, underlit photography, it's hard to guess whether Ben's neighbors have turned supernatural or merely wandered onto the set of Last Year at Marienbad. It's never clear what the tree's powers exactly are, or why it's so mad at everybody, or how you make it stop. Ben stabs it, shoots it, burns it, and throws a load of garbage on the deck of its boat. (Wait, that one may have been an adverse reaction to a small-penis joke, of which there are a plenitude in The Wretched, though none of them were told by the tree. I don't think.) But since everything happened in India-ink darkness, I was never sure which one worked.

Or if any of them worked. The show ends, seemingly, with everybody smiling and de-pod-ified, except the ones who weren't. The exact dimensions of Ben's penis remain unknown. His girlfriend Mallory gives him a funny look, though, which didn't seem positive, although even that is arguable. As Freud used to say, "What does a pod-girl really want?"

NEXT: Will Americans Actually Use Contact Tracing Apps?

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  1. It’s fun to make fun of Glenn Garvin locked up in the Satellite of Love being forced to watch bad movies, but at least he’s effectively quarantined against the virus.

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  4. This review is so absurd that I had to join the site just to comment on it. There are only two possibilities: that the reviewer didn’t pay even the most cursory attention to the screen, or that he is, in fact, a clinical idiot.

    The film is utterly straightforward. Not brilliant, mind you… it’s well-worn territory, treading the same ground as classics like Fright Night and Rear Window. It handled the material well enough, with a cast of mostly likeable characters and a surprisingly clever twist near the end. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s reasonably effective. It’s also blatant. This is not a movie that requires careful thought on the viewer’s part; instead, like a lot of contemporary film-making, it’s happy to hold the the audience’s hand and lead them through the narrative. To find it incomprehensible is… well, difficult to comprehend.

    The first hint that there’s something not quite right with this review is that it begins by insisting the movie is set in the mid-1980s, which is patently not the case. The frequent appearances of smartphones and laptops, one would have thought, would have provided a clue to the setting, but if those weren’t enough, the enormous, jagged, screen-filling caption identifying the time period as the present day should have done the trick. What appears to have happened is that the reviewer only paid attention to the story’s prologue – which is indeed set in the 1980s and lasts all of five minutes.

    From there he appears to have zoned in and out, maybe doing a crossword puzzle or watching football on his phone, missing simple plot points, failing to connect the already-connected dots, and evidently imagining the presence of something akin to pod people.

    The review does succeed in one area despite its author’s best efforts: his having failed so completely to absorb the movie, he’s incapable of spoiling it. Honestly, I don’t know that I would have called the movie required viewing before I came across this page, but now I have to enthusiastically suggest you watch it… not so much for the story, but for the experience of comparing what he thought to he saw to the movie that actually exists. Try it! It’ll be hilarious! And if you think the film is horror, think of this instead: this guy actually got paid to write his review and was willing to allow the public to read it.

  5. ” It has three separate production credits for a guy named Erik Porn, who’s actually a real person. And you thought your parents were swine!”

    Whether that’s his real last name or a pseudonym, his parents aren’t the ones responsible for it.

  6. Porn’s the guy’s last name. I know him. Decent guy. He takes the jokes in stride, but his last name isn’t his parent’s fault, obviously.

    You can be born with a dumb, easily made-fun of name like Humphrey or Glenn Gavin, Glenn Ross. But of the three of us, only Erik got namechecked at the Oscars for his work on Vice. And according to Erik, his folks were very nice people.

  7. His parents weren’t swine, but rather Devil Dogs. If you were lucky to know Erik’s dad , you’d know he was proud of his Dutch heritage & The Corps, which he’d supported around Flint, Michigan. If I wanted to read snarky reviews that mocked Marine families, i’d go to The Young Turks

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