Judge Daryl Loomis could pick locks by the time he was in kindergarten.
Say goodbye to your friends.
Somewhere in Swedish folklore, there is apparently a tale of a demon that lives underground. People are advised to not build homes over their dwellings, lest they rise from your basement to do terrible things to you and anyone who enters your home. That sounds an awful lot like the plot of a lot of horror movies I've seen, but I won't argue that it's a convenient setup. However much this is actually Swedish legend or just writers watching too many movies, the director team of Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund use it to good effect in Wither, their follow up to their debut feature, Blood Runs Cold.
Facts of the Case
A group of friends go out to a cabin in the woods that they've heard about for a few days of rest and partying. They arrive to find the door locked and, while they're trying to break in, two of them find an open window and decide to play a prank; one will climb in and scare the rest. Hilarious, of course, but as soon as Marie (Jessica Blomkvist) gets inside, she finds an open basement. For some reason, she goes down there and awakens some kind of monster that turns people into cannibal freaks. Shortly after they get in, Marie gets hungry, sinks her teeth into the face of one of her friends, and causes all hell to break loose as they each in turn become hungry for blood.
The last thing I can accuse Wither of is originality. It's clearly inspired by The Evil Dead and the many horror movies like it, but there's really no reason to do otherwise. Originality isn't nearly as important as execution and the directing duo execute their bloody plot just fine here. It takes about twenty minutes for the characters to get to the house, but it's non-stop mayhem from the time Marie hits the basement to the film's final frames.
That's what you want in this kind of movie, because the more that gets explained, the higher the risk the plot falls apart, and Wither explains absolutely nothing. We don't even get to know any of the characters, which is really for the best. Based on their haircuts, these aren't people you really want to spend time with. Beyond the fact that there's some kind of demon business spreading throughout the group, there really isn't much of a plot at all.
It doesn't need one; Wither is gore heaped upon gore, with good practical effects and a bit of atmosphere. The directors know how to work within their extremely small budget to deliver a movie that feels good, moves fast, and even has the chance to turn the stomach a little with the makeup effects they use. It's not a great film, nor is it particularly original, but it is bloody, occasionally creepy, and basically satisfies the horror itch. It delivers what it promises; no more and no less.
Wither gets a perfectly decent DVD release from Artsploitation. The film was shot on a cheap digital camera, but the 2.35:1 anamorphic image looks quite good. The black levels may not be quite as deep as they could be, but the colors look nice and there is strong detail in the frame. There is a heavy grain and a few little blips of damage, but these were intentionally added to rough up the frame. The sound is even better, with a strong, bottom-heavy surround mix that uses the rear channels to add a lot to the atmosphere. Sound design can add a lot to a horror film and they take big advantage of it here. It doesn't come at the expense of the dialog or music, either; both sound great alongside the effects in the mix.
Extras are light but interesting. The most substantial is a half-hour behind-the-scenes featurette showing the production process from the building of the sets to the wrap. No interviews; the camera is just a fly on the wall as the scenes progress. It gives a very good sense of the backstage process of low budget filmmaking and is definitely worth watching. The deleted scene is really an alternate ending that is completely different from the final product. It's prefaced with an explanation about pacing and they definitely made the right choice. A booklet with an essay and an interview with the directors closes out the package.
Wither doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it isn't trying to. The "teens in the woods with a demon" plot is certainly nothing new, but Laguna and Wiklund deliver on the gore with solid practical effects that look excellent on its budget. And that's really what it all comes down to: Wither is fantastic for its budget. It clearly has problems, but every krona is up there on the screen. It may not be original, but it's solid bloody fun.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Artsploitation Films
• Deleted Scene
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