• Pyewacket (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory/IFC
    Released on: August 7th, 2018.
    Director: Adam MacDonald
    Cast: Nicole Muñoz, Laurie Holden, Romeo Carere, Eric Osborne, Chloe Rose
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Adam McDonald, who recently gave us Backcountry, 2017’s Pyewacket introduces us to a high school student named Leah Reyes (Nicole Muñoz). She, along with her friends Janice (Chloe Rose), Aaron (Eric Osbournce) and Rob (Romeo Carere) are the school’s token goth kids and they make no qualms about hiding their interest in the occult. In fact, since Leah’s father passed away, she’s been obsessed with it, much to the dismay of her hard-drinking mother (Laurie Holden), whose relationship with her daughter is nothing if not strained.

    After coming home from a book signing one night, Leah’s mother tells her she needs a fresh start – they argue, and it comes out that she’s selling the house and moving the two of them up north a bit. Leah protests, but the decision has already been made. Understandably upset, Leah takes one of her occult ritual books and heads out into the woods and then proceeds to cast a spell of sorts with the intention of killing her mother.

    Things get weird from there, but we’ll stay out of spoiler territory here for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie yet.

    Pyewacket was shot in and around Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario and director Adam MacDonald does a great job of capturing the remoteness of the woods that surround that city. While we get a few shots of mother and daughter wandering the streets of the quaint town that the relocate to and some footage of Leah and her friends at school, the most interesting and important parts of the film take place in and around their new home located smack dab in the middle of some very thick forest. This helps in the last half of the film, as things start to head into some decidedly dark territory and the story begins to get more intense.

    The performances here are solid. The supporting players aren’t given as much to do but Chloe Rose, whose character at first seems like a stereotypical goth girl cliché, gets to deliver some pretty intense moments when asked to. Eric Osbourne, whose character is essentially the love interest for Leah, is likeable enough but both he and Romero Carere are a bit underused. Most of the heavy lifting is done by Nicole Muñoz and Laurie Holden, and both of them are very good here. Holden, who will be familiar to anyone who has watched The Walking Dead, plays the distraught mother character well. Her character is far from perfect, and when she lashes out at Leah early in the picture it’s strong enough and convincing enough that we can see why her daughter would turn against her (though plotting to kill her does seem a little extreme). Nicole Muñoz, on the other hand, plays her part with some good grounding. It would have been easy to overdo it here, and thankfully she never takes it in that direction.

    McDonald’s work behind the camera is solid. This is a slow burn to be sure but the pay off is solid and the movie is smarter than you might expect it to be in terms of how it positions what we see and asks the audience to think about it. The movie is nicely shot and has a pretty decent score also working in its favor.


    Pyewacket looks pretty good on this Blu-ray, framed at 2.40.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Shot digitally, the image is pristine. Detail is generally pretty strong here, you’ll notice this in facial closeups most of all but also in medium and long-distance shots, especially those in the woods where you can make out a lot of different markings in the tree bark. There is some obvious banding noticeable throughout but it’s minor. Aside from that, color reproduction is fine, though the movie makes use of a pretty dark color palette, and black levels are solid. Compression isn’t a problem – all in all, this is a solid picture.

    The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, in the film’s native English, is pretty solid. Optional subtitles are provided in English. The surround track is quite good, there’s some decent rear channel activity noticeable in the film’s more active moments, while dialogue stays primarily upfront in the mix. Levels are properly balanced and as you’d expect for a brand-new feature film, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.

    The main extra on the disc is a seventeen-minute making of featurette that interviews the principal cast and crew members about their experiences on set. The cast discuss their characters and their thoughts on the picture while McDonald talks about making the picture. It’s not super in-depth and the film would have benefitted from a director and/or writer commentary but it’s worth watching if you want to know more about the making of the picture.

    A trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection close out the supplements on the disc. Trailers for a few unrelated IFC/Shout! Factory horror properties play before the main menu screen loads.

    The Final Word:

    Pyewacket is a solid, slow burn horror picture that offers some quality brooding atmosphere and fine performances. It’s not the type of movie to make you jump out of your seat, but it’s effective nevertheless. The Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory/IFC isn’t stacked with extras but the featurette is interesting enough and the presentation quality of the movie itself quite good. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!