The Wicked Within
After a year passes since the sudden death of a child, a family gathering takes place whilst peculiar unexplainable events occur. Tension over peculiar circumstances cracks the veneer of cordiality and dark secrets emerge. Bethany (Sienna Guillory) becomes increasingly unhinged and seems Hell bent on tearing her family apart. Is she possessed or simply playing devils advocate? With the help of a priest and a psychic the family attempts to restore peace and sanity. But events which occur that night could never have been foreseen. Police psychologist Dr Woods (Eric Roberts) tries to exact fact from fiction of what really took place in the house in this gothic horror morality tale.
October 16, 2015
Sienna Guillory as Bethany
Michele Hicks as Hannah
Karen Austin as Jean
Sonja Kinski as Maggie
One of the stronger entries in this year’s Horrorfest lineup, The Wicked Within attempts to spin possession in an atypical direction. We’re not eyeing a susceptible child targeted by a malevolent spirit, or a quirky misfit who suddenly goes full contortionist. There’s no girl with abnormally long black hair, floating beds. We’re not subjected to another found footage movie without a pulse. What we’ve got here is a family thrown into an uncomfortable situation as a spirit of some nature invades one particular member of the clan. It isn’t what should be deemed downright original, but it’s a little bit different than most of the ideas we see put to film. And let’s be real here, over the last few years we’ve seen a flood of mediocre possession flicks forced upon fans. Most of us have grown wise to the trend, and are now prepared to steer clear of such pictures, and if you choose to do just such a thing in this particular case, no one’s going to blame you. But you just might be missing something you’ll – shockingly – enjoy.
The film opens with a look at the seemingly introverted Maggie dropping a few gifts off at her friend Hannah’s place. She attempts to bail in discreet fashion, but Hannah spots her and invites her to hang out for dinner while a small family reunion gets underway for the evening. Maggie reluctantly accepts, and before we know it we’re in full gathering mode. But things don’t run too smoothly once dinner really gets going. First we learn that Hannah recently lost her 3-year old child, and she’s been struggling her way through each day. Mother is a pushy broad who isn’t happy with some of her children’s decisions. The men in the family seem to lack testicles. There’s an awkward friction between Hannah and her sister Bethany.
And then Bethany is attacked by an unseen force, which sends the gathering in a severe spiral. There’s something inside of Beth. It’s not physical, it’s something else entirely. And it wants to tear a family apart. Success it has, too, as dark secrets are brought to the surface, eventually leading to a string of violence and murder inside the home. The questions quickly become: Who will survive, what is it that’s possessing Beth, and why are bodies piling up?
We receive relatively clear answers over the course of 91 minutes of tension and terror. There’s a sense of claustrophobia that makes the film feel a bit less comfortable than most will care to admit, and while the possibilities the feature offers are limited, director Jay Alaimo goes for the gusto and looks to siphon everything he can from Stephen Wallis’ script, which, for the record, is decent. While the religious aspect of the film could be a bit clearer in delivery, we get the gist of the film, and most of it works successfully.
The cast deserves a nod of respect. Sienna Guillory (who you’ll recognize from a few of the Resident Evil movies) does an excellent job of portraying woman out of her mind, and relative unknown Heath Freeman (who actually turns in fine work in one of the year’s better indie flicks, Dark Was the Night) is quite convincing as the determined priest. Gianni Capaldi and Sarah Lassez are also respectable additions to the cast. Eric Roberts shows up, but he’s working with a relatively limited role, so his time to shine isn’t too expansive. Just the same, he doesn’t do a terrible job. It’s a fair cast to say the least, and there isn’t a single figure in front of the camera that has anything to be ashamed of.
The special effects are limited, not in regards to possibilities, but in regards to requirement. There just aren’t too many moments that call for eye-popping enhancements. And that’s okay, as the flick is forced to rely on story and performance over wild effects or unnecessary jump scares. That’s one of The Wicked Within’s greatest strengths. No one here is attempting to reach beyond natural potential, and that’s going to go a long way in winning fans over.
At the end of the day, The Wicked Within is just another possession film, and that won’t necessarily endear it to many fans. This is a tired subgenre and at this point we all know it. Despite the fact that the story is relatively engaging and the performances are strong, it may not offer enough creativity to impress the mass market. What I personally see is an inspired little film with a few moments that deliver quality payoffs. But I also recognize the hurdles the movie faces. It’s not quite original enough to flip an abundant amount of lids, and there is no big “wow” moment to leave viewers talking. Those are problems. And, there are a few other small issues with the script, as well. They’re not glaring problems (hence the reason they’re not being mentioned in this review), but they do exist. If you’re looking for a possession movie that at least tries to stand out from the pack, this one will entertain you. If you’re just completely done with the sub-genre, you’re safe passing it up.