The Wretched

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Wretched Movie Poster Image
Gore, language in fun, 1980s-inspired horror movie.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

More or less about a random attack (from a witch who steals children) on everyday people. Evil is without rhyme or reason, and heroes have little choice but to respond. Depiction of strained relations within a divorced family (a father, a son, the father's new girlfriend), which is handled in certain positive ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen characters show bravery in a difficult situation against a supernatural adversary, though their decision to help isn't exactly selfless: It's more about self-defense, warding off attack, protecting family members. Main character Ben is shown to be troubled, having broken his arm while attempting to steal pills from a neighbor's house; he also disrespects his father and gets drunk in one scene.


Guns and shooting; a character shoots himself. Children in jeopardy. Witch devours a young girl (blood on girl's neck). Character shoots a dog (off-screen). Attempt to gut a dead deer; lots of blood and gore. Blood running from ears. Monsters/creatures. Bully beats up main character. Knife-wielding, slashing/stabbing. Nightmare about drowning. Character hits head on tree trunk. Witch tries on new "skin," which doesn't fit well; pulls out tooth. Car crash, fire. Screaming. Creepy/scary stuff. Weird noises/minor jump scares. Vomiting.


A couple appears to be having sex (seen briefly in distance through window). Shirtless man kisses a woman, starts to initiate sex, but they're interrupted. Kissing. Teen boy's swim shorts are stolen in the pool; his naked bottom shown. Woman's naked bottom shown. Flirting. Teen takes off bikini top in pool (nothing graphic shown). Sex-related talk.


Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "dumbass," "goddamn," "hell," "d--k," "butt," and "idiot," plus exclamatory uses of "oh my God," "Jesus."


Starburst and Skittles candies are part of the plot. (Starbursts are shown, and Skittles catchphrase, "taste the rainbow," is heard.)

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen party includes drinking out of red cups; main teen character gets very drunk. Teen tells story about breaking into a house to steal Vicodin. Adult drinks a beer with dinner. Adult smokes cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wretched is a horror movie about an evil tree witch that steals children -- and the intrepid teens who try to set things right. It has plenty of violent scenes, including guns and shooting (a man shoots himself and kills a dog, off-screen), dead deer guts, knives and cutting/slashing, blood, children in jeopardy, a bully, and an evil creature. There's flirting, sex talk, and kissing (by both adults and teens), and a married couple initiates sex but is interrupted. A man is shirtless, and both a woman's and teen boy's bare rear ends are seen. Language includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "dumbass," and more. Teens drink at a party, and a teen gets very drunk. Someone talks about a teen stealing Vicodin, and adults drink beer and smoke cigarettes. This is a brisk, fun homage to older movies, with its own sense of style.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDarrenDon June 13, 2020

Don't look under the tree

The best way to enjoy this is to have it projected outside with pizza and wings and talking during the film. with friends.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In THE WRETCHED, a flashback shows a teen babysitter encountering a witch who's devouring a young child. In the present day, troubled teen Ben (John-Paul Howard) arrives to spend the summer with his divorced dad, Liam (Jamison Jones). To Ben's dismay, he also meets his dad's new girlfriend, Sara (Azie Tesfai). Ben gets a job at the marina and bonds with fellow misfit Mallory (Piper Curda). Meanwhile, he thinks he sees some kind of monster next door. And then Ben notices the neighbors -- Ty (Kevin Bigley), Abbie (Zarah Mahler), their young son, Dillon (Blane Crockarell), and a baby -- start acting strangely. When Dillon fails to show up for a sailing lesson, Ben follows up, and Ty claims never to have had any kids. Ben and Mallory decide to investigate, discovering a tree that could be the dwelling place of an ancient evil.

Is it any good?

Familiar but fresh, this brisk, gory mashup of horror and teen adventure movie is inspired by many 1970s and '80s favorites, but it's less a slavish copy than it is an enthusiastic, adoring tribute. The Wretched has touches that recall the works of Steven Spielberg, among others. And brothers/writers-directors Brett and Drew T. Pierce are the sons of Bart Pierce, who worked on special effects for Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead. These bits and pieces are assembled with such finesse and with so many elements mixed together so well that it feels like a seamless whole.

Howard's appealing performance as Ben is a huge help. At times, it feels like he's channeling Michael J. Fox's clumsy confidence from movies like Back to the Future. And Curda offers some bright, spunky moments as the funny Mallory. The monster is a good one -- genuinely scary, even though it borrows some movements and sound effects from other movies. But the real reason The Wretched works so well is that it's rooted in nightmarishly primal fears between parents and children: fears of abandonment, issues of trust, etc. That underlying dread effectively drives the storytelling, with its focus on characters rather than jump scares.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Wretched's violence. How did it make you feel? How much is shown or not shown? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What's the appeal of horror movies? Why do people sometimes want to be scared?

  • How is teen drinking portrayed here? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • How does divorce impact families? Why is Ben so angry about the idea of his father having a girlfriend? How does the family talk about this situation?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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