Nat (Martin L. Washington, Jr.) is turning his life around. He’s moved back home to Missouri. He has friends supporting him. He has a decent job. He’s gotten through thirty days clean and sober. Nat is finding peace, and finding love, in Kansas City. He has a new beautiful relationship with Adam (Kevin Medlin). Things could be a lot better though. Adam is closeted and lives with his extremely conservative family. When their world is rocked by Adam’s sudden cancer diagnosis, the truth about him and Nat comes out, much to Adam’s parent’s dismay. Nat knows he has to do something, and fast, or risk losing his boyfriend forever.

Enter Jean (Shannon Conley). Jean works at the vegetarian restaurant with Nat. She’s quirky, and reveals to Nat that her quirks run much deeper than just funky outfits and crazy hair. She is a practitioner of “enceladism” – a cultish belief system utilizing branches of divine healing. According to the enceladism website (put together by the Wretch production team), it is defined as such: Enceladism is a life science. We take information from ancient peoples living in the Americas and in Asia, in Africa, in Scotland, and we’ve fused it together to offer you a healing modality that will end illness in the body, by recognizing that your blood is divine power, jet fuel for the human rocket ship through the space you’ve chosen to create.” 

 

Nat is desperate, and willing to try anything to save Adam, and finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of rituals, led by Jean and her mysterious mentor, Pete (Joe Rooney). What Nat doesn’t realize is that the ripples and repercussions of his new practice will change the future forever.

WRETCH approaches ritualistic and natural healing with a brutal honesty – showing that while there’s good to be done – lots of it – there is also bad. Realizing that the “healers” you align yourself with may not be perfect and may be throwing a shadow over the “light work” you are trying to accomplish. While there are loads of potentially harmful stereotypes – blurring the lines between Eastern healing techniques and Satanism, for example – the underlying truth is strong. Often, and this is tragic, these so-called techniques and ancient ways are newly developed white heroism, that preys on the most vulnerable among us. The damage they can do can by far outweigh the good. WRETCH illustrates the worst case scenario of “seeking truth”.

WRETCH is another classic example of a script that needed one more edit. One more pass, and it may have been perfect. As it stands, some timeline and scene jumps are confusing and some details are left muddy and murky. The character work by the entire cast – particularly Conley and Rooney – pierces through the slower or less developed portions of the script to provide memorable performances that drive the story along. Another highlight is the performance given by Maria Olsen, who plays Adam’s old fashioned and hateful mother. It’s difficult to portray such an unredeemable character without them feeling too terrible to be believed, but Olsen pulls this performance off with grace, and somehow a deep undercurrent of motherly protection.

WRETCH has a stylistic integrity that is to be admired. It never falters in its vision and style, and often the visual storyline is the strongest pull to remain invested in a faltering script. Unique art direction, lighting, and cinematography help to pull the viewer along when the path gets treacherous. I was particularly impressed with the stylistic choices used to represent the healing work and enceladism portrayed in the story. Even before you realize the darker side of this supposed healing art, the visuals tell you what you may be in for – but not in an overt or overwrought way. Major applause to the relatively small crew – lots of multitasking and hopping between departments seemed to occur here, and the end product is something that they should be proud of. Far from perfect, WRETCH is imbued with heart and light, and horror and darkness, all in one quick and dirty little package.

5/10 stars

Impact Event
RATING: UR
Runtime: 1 hr 47Mins.
Directed By:
B. Luciano Barsuglia
Written By:
B. Luciano Barsuglia