W: Wither (2012)

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Wither was mentioned to me when it first came out as “a Swedish Evil Dead” to which my response was yeah, okay, cool as it was entered in the Infinite Watchlist until I had need/time/desire to track it down and watch it.  And I have to say that I wasn’t expecting that description to be quite so literal.

High hopes at the beginning, as we find a hunter searching through a rainstorm for someone named Lisa. He finds her – apparently his daughter – but someone is chewing on her. He shoots that someone in the head, and they get back up anyway.

Credits.

We are now going to go into setup mode for the next twenty minutes, as we meet our seven young cannon fodder characters as they prepare for a weekend at a remote cabin: four women, three men (Lisa Henni, Amanda Renberg, Jessica Blomkvist, Anna Henriksson, Patrik Almkvist, Patrick Saxe, and Max Walmo). The father of our male lead, Aldi (Almkvist), who owns some property in those woods, found this cabin, seemingly abandoned, for his son’s outing.

Seven characters might seem a lot for a horror movie, but then, since it’s a horror movie, we can be pretty sure that most of them won’t be around for the end credits. Especially since they seem to keep making the requisite dubious choices that make such movies possible. The first being Marie (Blomkvist), boosted into the locked cabin (to supposedly surprise Aldi at the front door) deciding to, instead, investigate the mysterious cellar she finds dug under the cabin.

This is Dubious Choice Prime that makes the rest of the movie possible, you see.

Instead of finding a recording raising ancient Sumerian demons, there is some kind of legendary race that lives underground, and gazing into their eyes allows them to swallow your soul, you see, and it’s not ten minutes later that Marie goes all white-eyed and bitey. The hunter from the opening (Ralf Beck) drops by to give us the backstory, and to advise that they burn Marie (like he did his wife and daughter, who had also found that basement). And oh, yeah, anybody who gets bitten or has possessed blood slopped on them will get infected, too. So right away we are able to go, okay, you and you, and that list will get expanded thanks to further dubious choices.

The FX are practical, gory and frequent. Marie’s goopy transformation doesn’t even wait for the half-hour mark, and after that the movie is pretty much non-stop – the only problem is that what is happening is so damned familiar. It manages to etch out a bit of identity by having the cat-and-mouse between the possessed and still-human take place in a two-story house, but otherwise, this really is Evil Dead without the very real weirdness Raimi and party brought to the proceedings.

Writer/directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (who also double as camera, sound, and FX men) know their genre chops well, and Wither is a well-made movie on all those fronts. The actors all get a chance to be scary (and speaking as an actor, we love that shit). If I had never seen Evil Dead, I would have really gotten into this movie – but I have, and therefore all I can say is, good job everybody! But I do really wish you’d brought just a little something else to distinguish yourselves from your inspiration.

Buy Wither on Amazon

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