Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[Review] Wither

An abandoned house in the secluded Swedish countryside lures a group of young adults with the promise of a crazy weekend of uninterrupted partying. An investigation into the cellar, however, has one of the girls come face to face with a horrifying legend capable of unleashing hell. Having stared into the vacant, milky-white eyes of a monstrous creature, the girl rejoins her friends as a different person, appearing lifeless and sickly. Soon enough, things take a turn for the worse when she succumbs to some form of possession and begins wreaking bloody havoc on her friends.

Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead was an instant classic upon release back in the 1980s and has yet to be dethroned as the champion of the “cabin in the woods” subgenre. It’s a simple, cheap and effective form of horror storytelling that many have tried to replicate, and Wither is no exception. Instead of using The Evil Dead as a jumping off point, however, Wither seems content with treading the same old grounds and never truly branching off on its own. This is, at once, somewhat of a strength and a weakness, as it provides old-school familiarity while never really bothering to throw any surprises our way to keep things fresh.

The two leads, Albin and Ida, are a realistic and likable couple that evoke sympathy, and basically carry the entire film on their shoulders. The rest of the group of friends are nothing but filler characters that exist for the sole purpose of being possessed and killed, and that's all we really getover and over again.

The overabundance of blood and the use of practical effects is refreshing and admirable and is sure to be lapped up by the gorehounds. Faces are ripped off, heads are blown off, blood soaks everything and the possessed look decently creepy. But while gore is certainly appreciated in a film like this, it should be treated as the icing on the cake, not the ingredients of the cake itself. Not before long, the bloody action becomes monotonous and tedious with nothing to keep us glued to the screen. Things are kept just a bit too simple for my liking, and that's the film's main issue.

The creature in the cellar, we come to learn, is part of a race of subterranean creatures who don't take too kindly to trespassers. If you should come across one such creature and look into its eyes, your soul will be taken and your lifeless body possessed. Anyone who comes into contact with the blood of the possessed will also be taken over. We learn all this from a mysterious stranger who appears on their doorstep with intentions of blowing all their heads off with his hunting rifle. The idea is certainly intriguing enough, especially how the possession basically spreads like a virus. But because this explanation comes so offhandedly and so prosaically, it doesn't invoke any real fear and can't be taken too seriously. At this point, we really don't have much to rely on, other than some young adults getting bloodied up while running from room to room.

Although there's nothing particularly bad about this film, Wither suffers from a serious lack of ambition that keeps it from reaching its full potential. The mythology of the creatures and their resulting carnage is a creepy idea that is unfortunately never fleshed out and given the proper treatment it deserved. For a low-budget effort, Wither looks surprisingly good with subdued hues, a good location, and a smearing of blood. The acting is fairly good, all around, and some of the characters are quite likable. Wither certainly doesn't set out to accomplish much and may not stand out from the crowd, but as it stands, it's passable old-school entertainment that would be unfair to simply brush off.


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