It’s a passing angsty teen fancy, of course – Leah doesn’t really want her mother dead and, besides, none of this black magic nonsense really works, right? Except this time it does, and Leah must now figure out a way to undo the summoning in the face of a series of increasingly creepy events that will, as both she and canny horror viewers know, culminate in her mother’s death.
Taking several leaves from the upper echelon Blumhouse playbook, MacDonald leans on atmosphere and performance rather than elaborate special effects, building dread and foreboding on a relatively basic narrative foundation that nonetheless provides ample opportunity for chills. Which is not to say that we don’t get the odd bit of splatter – just that scenes such as when Leah’s friend Janice (Chloe Rose) stays over at the house and they find her sitting in the car in the morning, terrified out of her wits and refusing to say why, are far more effective.
There’s not too much else to say about PYEWACKET (the title, by the way, comes from the recorded name of a demonic familiar to one of witchfinder Matthew Hopkins’ victims – history is fun) without going into detail that’s better off discovered in the course of viewing. It lacks the narrative verve and dizzying genre ambition of last year’s Hereditary, with which it shares a few commonalities, but it’s a solid, well-crafted entry nonetheless. MacDonald is going to be worth keeping an eye on if he continues down this path.
Pyewacket is released on DVD via Eagle Entertainment on April 10, 2019.