The COVID-19 pandemic has had a specifically profound impact on the movie industry, as essentially every traditional movie theater is shut down for the foreseeable future. Surprisingly, that hasn't completely stopped people from going out of the house to see movies, as drive-in theaters throughout the country are able to remain open. That has apparently been a bit of a blessing in disguise for one particular film - The Wretched, a low-budget horror flick that has now risen to be the #1 film in America for three weeks straight, with a gross of just over $350,000 at the box office. The film's directors, Drew and Brett Pierce, recently addressed the unexpected popularity in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly.
"It’s actually been a complete shock and kind of insane," Brett explained. "We were a little movie from Michigan. We always aimed for the moon, but with an independent film you think, Yeah, we’ll come out in a few theaters, and we’ll play for like a week, and maybe ten people will see it. Most people are going to see it when we land on a streaming service at some point. Each week it just kept on getting bigger, it was one of those things where you just don’t believe it as it’s happening. We’re going to be a Jeopardy question one day, because we’re going to be the lowest-grossing most successful film."
The Wretched follows a defiant teenage boy, struggling with his parent's imminent divorce, who faces off with an old witch who has possessed the neighbor next door. As the brothers explained, the plans with the film's distributor, IFC Midnight, quickly began to shift towards drive-in theaters once the pandemic grew widespread.
"The release date was set and it wasn't going to change," Drew explained. "For a while there it was, 'Well, guys, it’s not going to be in any theatres, [but] we’re still going to come out on VOD. We were disappointed at first but completely understood because of the pandemic."
"[Then] they mentioned drive-ins," says Brett.
"Every week, IFC would be like, 'We’ve got these couple more drive-ins that are open, that are safe and willing to play it,'" says Drew. "And then a couple more days would go by and, 'Oh, there’s a couple more.' They eventually opened it up on twelve, I think. We were like, Oh, wow, we came out in twelve, looks like quite a few people came and saw it. We were like, that’s probably the best we’re ever going to do. And then each week they kept on adding more drive-ins and the movie kept getting more people there."
While it sounds like the brothers are definitely happy with the film's cult following, they do acknowledge the circumstances that it came about in.
"It’s a weird thing for Drew and I," Brett admitted. "We’re really happy with the success of the movie but also feel bad about being happy when things are so dark for people. But then you tell yourself [it's] a safe escapism. We’re a little bit relieved when things aren’t not so nice."
The Wretched is available in select theaters now.