One of the biggest surprises out of the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival is Backcountry director Adam MacDonald‘s heavy metal horror film Pyewacket, about a young girl who performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
While the subgenre has produced several classics including Trick or Treat, Black Roses, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Deathgasm, and Devil’s Candy, Pyewacket ignores all of them by delivering an authentic and riveting coming-of-age story that’s as dark as the main character’s clothing.
Nicole Muñoz stars as Leah, a teenager struggling with the loss of her father. She’s surrounded herself with new friends who dabble in black magic and the occult. Leah’s mother (played by “The Walking Dead’s” Laurie Holden) isn’t handling things as well, and decides to sell their house and move into the woods an hour away. She becomes borderline abusive and says some pretty awful things to Leah, which pushes her over the edge. Leah performs a ritual deep in the woods and calls upon Pyewacket to kill her mother. Things get awkward when her mother apologizes for the way she behaved, making Leah (as well as the audience) wish she hadn’t said the name “Pyewacket” aloud.
MacDonald plays the long game with Pyewacket, slowly building up to the shocking finale with a sea of brooding tension. It begins with sounds in the attic and then turns weird when Leah wakes up in the woods where the ritual was performed. She’s sure Payewacket is there and can’t believe her ritual actually worked. After telling her friends, one spends the weekend to verify the claims and ends up witnessing something so horrific it’ll have your arms screaming with goosebumps.
Beautifully shot with impressive performances all around, what’s great about Pyewacket is that it never overplays its hand. MacDonald is never trying too hard to shock the audience and is more determined to make his film believable than anything else. In that regard, he still delivers on his promise and offers up a shocking finale that’s equally crushing as it’s mortifying.
Pyewacket is a surprisingly simple movie, but it’s incredibly well made and entertains with the best of them. It’s an instant indie gem that could sneak its way onto many horror fans’ end of the year lists. Don’t let this one slip under your radar or we’ll send Pyewacket after you…