Pyewacket

Pyewacket is a 2017 Canadian horror thriller film written and directed by Adam MacDonald. It stars Laurie Holden and Nicole Muñoz. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

Leah Reyes is a teenager fascinated with black magic and occult practices. Following the death of Leah’s father, she becomes more and more obsessed with researching the occult. One evening she is late from coming home from a book signing and later drinking beer and smoking weed with her friends. Her grieving mother decides to move to a remote woodland house for a fresh start, forcing Leah to leave her school friends behind and join her. Leah soon feels isolated and frustrated in the new home, and after a fierce argument with her mother, she wishes death on her. Venturing deep into the forest, Leah performs an occult ritual from one of her books to summon the demon Pyewacket to kill her mother. However, Leah bonds with her mother shortly afterwards, and she soon regrets her actions.

Strange things start to happen in the house as Leah hears loud thuds from the attic but her mom can’t find anything or anyone. Also the door is open when they come down in the morning and there’s piles of dirt on the floors. At night Pyewacket appears as a dark figure in Leah’s room, unseen by her and drags her into the forest. Leah wakes up next to a tree with blood on her.  She turns to her school friends for help, and her best friend Janice agrees to stay at Leah’s house overnight to help her lift the curse. However, Pyewacket attacks Janice in the night, and the following morning Leah and her mother find her cowering in the car, too terrified to say what happened to her. Leah then seeks advice from aranormalist Rowan Dove, who advises that the only way to stop the demon is to perform the same summoning ritual in the same place, but in reverse. He also warns that Pyewacket is a devious shape-shifter and Leah must not trust anyone until the curse is lifted.

When Leah returns to the forest and begins the reverse ritual, she stops when she sees her mother lying dead nearby, but also hears her mother calling out for her. In a panic, Leah calls 911, and then her friend Aaron to pick her up. Returning to the house, Leah is confronted by Pyewacket, who first takes the form of Leah’s mother, and then of a monstrous hag. Leah hides in the attic, and when her mother returns home, Leah is convinced that she is another of Pyewacket’s illusions, so that night she douses her mother with gasoline and sets her on fire, believing that she is killing the demon. This in turn sets the house on fire, and when Aaron arrives he finds Leah unconscious outside as the house burns down. The film ends with Leah being interviewed by a police detective about her mother’s death. After playing a recording of Leah’s 911 call where she said her mother’s body was in the woods, the detective reveals that the only body the police found was a burned one in the ruins of the house. Leah is horrified as she realises Pyewacket tricked her into killing her mother.

Not at all scary but atmospheric in places. There’s some good acting from Holden & Munoz but overall the movie needs something more. For a long time we don’t see anything and it’s more like a mother-daughter drama until the latter parts of the film. 7 outta 10!