Throughout the ages, and often due to good old misogyny, witches have played a prominent role in folklore, legend, and latterly, popular culture. Whilst traditionally they’ve been seen as incarnations of evil or infernal creatures, nowadays they’re as likely to appear in children’s books as in bedtime stories. The Pierce Brothers’ new film, The Wretched, goes old school whilst being a profoundly modern take on occult mythology.

After running into trouble at home, Ben (John-Paul Howard) goes to stay with his dad (Jamison Jones) for the summer. Determined to make a fresh start, he tries to settle in to a job working at the local marina, but he’s not keen on his father’s new girlfriend (Azie Tesfai). If growing up wasn’t hard enough his neighbour seems to be possessed by an ancient witch who is terrorising the local children.

The Wretched is a well-balanced mix of coming-of-age drama and supernatural horror. Whilst the genre aspects are done well, there’s nothing quite as terrifying as being a teenager. Ben must try and save the day and find redemption, but no one will believe him. What it all comes down to in the end is trust. The Pierce Brothers have created a chilling, suspenseful tale which benefits from its investment in its human elements.

The Wretched screened at Grimmfest.