Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: Pyewacket

Pyewacket is a great little Canadian indie horror gem about a teenage girl whose father has recently died and as a consequence of arguing with her overprotective mother, decides to summon a demon with even more disastrous consequences. Canadian Nicole Muñoz is excellent as the lead Leah, who is really into black metal and the occult and totally badass (I loved her immediately). Laurie Holden (The Mist, Andrea in The Walking Dead) is also great as her mother Mrs Reyes, who is coming to terms with a few demons of her own and runs the challenge of rebuilding her broken life and raising a teenage daughter.

I read online that Pyewacket is has similarities to Ladybird, which also came out in 2017. It’s true that both films concern mothers and daughters and the relationship between them, but Pyewacket heads into much darker (and more interesting territory). What does one do when they lose their temper and say things that can irrevocably hurt another but don’t really mean it? What if that thing is a demon? That’s one of the consequences of the film, and it makes the viewer think twice about the things we say and the consequences of what we do. It’s also a coming-of-age film; Leah is a young woman who needs a good friend and has experienced things that most of us will never experience at her age. It’s always hard with high school too. The occult offers her the consolation she seeks, empowering her as a young woman and not passing judgement as her mother tends to do. Her mother is also a very sympathetic character – how do you begin to understand and care for a rebel teen when your partner has just passed away and you can’t really take care of yourself anymore?

The mother’s solution is to move to an isolated house in the middle of woods (those options never go down well), which seems very reminiscent of the original The Evil Dead. We also meet some interesting characters along the way, including Leah’s male friend Aaron who is obviously interested in her as well as Rowan Dove, a famous author who writes about the occult and whom Leah gets in contact with (at first I didn’t realise he was a fictional character and I was so interested in his books that I actually looked him up…whoops). It’s a slow burner, but the payoff is great, featuring a gut-punch finale which seems inevitable but still jarring and shocking. There’s also strong similarities to The Witch in terms of female empowerment and supernatural agency, but whereas Thomasin experiences a feminist awakening at the end of the film (at the cost of her Puritan family), Leah is empowered by her interest and use of the occult earlier in the film and makes an accidental and devastating mistake that leads to the horror at the core of the film. It’s not just about supernatural demons though; it is about the demons between mother and daughter, and about the personal demons that they continue to try to overcome as the film progresses. They are strong women, but they are in dire consequences, and such things do not always end well. Pyewacket is a great watch though and a pleasure to watch on the Canadian indie film scene (up there with other Canadian horror greats like Ginger Snaps and 2) and horror scene in general. Check it out when you can.

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