Goth teen Leah (Nicole Munoz) is living in US small town Booniesville, living mainly for hanging out with her blackleather clad school friends at occult book signings. After her dad’s death, she’s horrified to hear that her heavy-drinking and controlling mum (The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden) wants to have a fresh start by moving to a new house out in the woods. Not surprisingly worried by the thought of living in the middle of nowhere away from her black-lipstick-wearing pals, Leah buys a book on the occult.
Once she and her mother have moved to the new Evil Dead-esque cabin in the woods, she uses the book to attempt to remove her mum by performing a “Pyewacket” ritual in the woods with some of her mum’s hair from a hair brush to offer to the Pyewacket spirit. The spell only seems to need a knife to cut her own wrist to get the necessary blood, and a ball of red wool. It’s never completely clear what she’s expecting with her mum conveniently out of the way via killer spells. Does Leah think life in a children’s home would be better? Even more implausibly, Leah’s mum doesn’t seem to insist on getting a doctor or stitches for her daughter’s knife wound.
The occult book author tries to offer cautioning good advice via Skype on reversing the spell, warning Leah somberly that once summoned, the Pyewacket spirit can be “very manipulative”.
Her mum then becomes more reasonable and likeable, and Leah tries to revoke the spell to prevent any matricide. But by then it’s too late, and there’s something disturbing in the woods, and it seems to be approaching Leah’s cabin. At first there’s nothing more scary than a few unexplained thumps in the night upstairs in the attic.
But Leah’s school chum comes over to stay the night, but the next morning is found hiding in the car outside, shakily refusing to get back into the house. What’s going on? When Leah’s mum suddenly starts behaving disturbingly, Leah decides to take matters into her own hands.
This is probably the ultimate lo-budget horror, with the only props owned by the cast: a car, cabin in the woods and some school tables to sit on. The sunset-filled woods are beautifully shot and, the visual horror rarely appears onscreen.
Writer and director Adam Macdonald keeps the pace slow and atmospheric, but makes the odd decision to have the characters’ texts appear on screen, which looks strange in the horror genre, and possibly would suit a rom-com or teen drama better. Both female leads are strong, and really carry the film, with the only male character seen briefly being Leah’s prospective boyfriend and the occult author. An interesting and thought-provoking horror.
Teen angst and occult woes.