With nods to the likes of Pyewacket and The Blair Witch Project with its rural location and strange goings on in the woods, The Wretched draws deep from the ever open well of humans’ primal fears of the dark and forests.

Ben (John Paul-Howard) is visiting his father Liam (Jamison Jones) sporting a broken arm looking to help him out at the local marina. The family has recently split and Ben is not far off being obnoxious; his attitude made worse by the presence of Liam’s girlfriend Sara (Azie Tesfai). Though Liam manages the marina he lives in a more rural setting with forest out back and another house close-by.

The other house is occupied by couple Abbie (Zarah Mahler) and Ty (Kevin Bigley) and son Dillon (Bland Cockerell). They appear a contented family on introduction as Dillon and Abbie hit the nature trail where they come across strange signs carved into the trees.

Meanwhile Ben has befriended Mallory (Piper Curda) who also helps out around the marina and it’s here that he encounters the cool kids with the inevitable confrontations which culminate at a beach party where his drunken behaviour and humiliation casts Ben as a fairly typical bratty/bullied teen and a somewhat unsympathetic character.

With the characters set up the creepy stuff begins. There are noises in the loft and the cellar, flowers wilting and dying, shadowy shapes in and around the houses, and the families begin to experience strange goings on. The film flits between families as Ben and dad fall out, then Ben and Mallory fall out, and Ben starts to spy on next door’s perceived weird behaviour (a la Rear Window) and gets a real shock when he sees the couple making love.

Co-directed and written by Brett and Drew Pierce The Wretched is a little slow at times and doesn’t create the tension and dread that this type of story relies on. That said the run up to the final sequence is well handled if leading to a slightly predictable ending. The characters are stock though there’s enough meat on them for the actors to work with and develop.

The Wretched was presented at FrightFest London on 28 August 2019 and will be available on digital from 8th May on the following platforms: Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google Play, Playstation Store, Microsoft.