Studio: Artsploitation Films
Director: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Writer: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund, David Liljeblad
Producer: David Liljeblad
Stars: Patrik Almkvist, Lisa Henni, Amanda Renberg, Patrick Saxe, Jessica Blomkvist, Max Wallmo, Anna Henriksson, Johannes Brost
Seven friends come face-to-face with a demonic Swedish legend while on holiday at a cabin in the woods.
With “Blood Runs Cold” (review here), filmmakers Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund went to the well and pulled up a pail of cabin in the woods for a brisk slasher that was essentially just a slipcase covering for maniacal mayhem. “Wither” finds Laguna and Wiklund taking a dip in the same waters without having even changed their bucket. This time, they return to their native land to create what is essentially a Swedish language version of “The Evil Dead.”
Every other article written about “Wither” has drawn that same comparison, and rightly so. Seven friends set out for a remote cabin in the woods to party away the weekend. But one of them opens a door in the floor and unleashes an ancient curse. Each person then takes a turn becoming demonically possessed before being dispatched in suitably gory fashion while the evil entity claims another host. The only things missing from the storyline are a skin-bound Necronomicon and a Bruce Campbell cameo.
Since no new ground is being broken on the story front, “Wither” focuses its resources on what it can do well, which is creating copious crimson colored geysers spraying liberally from gruesomely severed limbs. A pocketknife decapitation, a bitten off upper lip, and a body impaled on the legs of an overturned stool are a few of the outstanding makeup effects that keep the movie’s motor running. Every time the routine plot stirs up boredom, a violent axe swing or gunshot blast that stifles the urge to yawn is often close behind.
Hair matted with mud and reddish-brown blood compliments cataract-colored contact lenses for a familiar look to the creepy creatures that is somehow unique at the same time. If “Wither” put as much passion and creativity into the script as it did into the visual horror, it would be memorable as something more than a Scandinavian “Evil Dead” clone.
With the slice and dice symphony of destruction picking up the entertainment ball dropped by the lack of originality, many of the movie’s transgressions can be overlooked. Although there can be too much of a good thing as even the most forgiving gorehounds will find “Wither” trying their collective patience.
The flimsy backstory involves a Swedish legend about a creature that possesses a person Medusa-style if someone holds its gaze for too long. As the premise is already paper thin to begin with, “Wither” makes the mistake of overstaying its welcome by carrying on for too long. With a roster seven campers deep plus an additional huntsman, the daisy chain of possession – kill – new possession – kill – new possession – etc. has at least two too many characters among its links.
Pare down the cast, chop the runtime from 95 to just 80 minutes, and “Wither” would be much easier to swallow as a hollow yet entertaining piece of gore-fueled horror. The film runs out of gas when the latter half overindulges in redundancy. Even the last two kills are executed in the same manner, as if “Wither” itself realized that it was overstuffed with bodies and out of ideas for their elimination.
“Wither” has its moments, although Laguna and Wiklund ought to break out of their continued pattern of relying on secluded cabins populated with blood-soaked axe-wielders for their next project. Emulating other films or a proven formula is fine for a launching pad, but not as a continued crutch.
Even if it is the redheaded stepbrother of “Evil Dead,” “Wither” should still be welcomed as part of the family and it therefore deserves at least a small place at the dining room table. Or maybe just a seat at the folding card table off to the side reserved for the less mature party guests.
NOTE: The Swedish title is “Vittra.”
Review Score: 65