The Lund International Fantastic Film Festival showcases tonight the world premiere of Wither, a rare horror entry from the land of Bergman. A full blooded affair unafraid to lay on the blood and gore, Wither may struggle with some of the story elements but still ends as a very entertaining offer. Here's how the festival describes it.
Albin, his girlfriend Ida and their friends are all in their late twenties. During a family dinner, Albin's dad tells the couple about a supposedly abandoned house deep in the woods. Albin and Ida sees this as an opportunity to get together with their friends one more time and spend the weekend there. They all get together and are soon on their way. Everyone is excited about seeing the mysterious house. But underneath the ground, something is waiting for her....
Wither falls into a familiar trap for this sort of film. All of the characters are just very gullible. Everyone does exactly the wrong thing. It would be harsh to say that every one of these characters is an idiot but they exist merely to serve a simple purpose. To die. When the gang arrives at this house in the woods and find the doors locked, Markus finds an open window around the back and encourages Marie to go inside and scare Albin when he finally gets the door open. Presumably having never seen a horror film in her life she instead goes down through a nearby trap door into an underground passage. Oh, you poor dear. You're just a lamb led to the slaughter. There is even a creepy old man who shows up at the cabin to offer up the appropriate context for all the biting that has been happening up to that point! You aren't meant to hate these guys and gals but you don't fall in love with them either. Don't get too attached to anyone. Their chances of survival are slim to none.
So the script does not set a new benchmark for originality. And the acting at some points is barely bearable. But the gore and the violence makes up for it in spades. No, really. A spade does come into play later in the film. But, boy howdy, does the violence more than redeem the typical horror plot. By the end of the second act I was giddy as a Swedish child on Juldagen (Christmas Day). Cinematic violence is clearly where the lads excel. As the evil consumes one friend after another the acts of violence get crazier and crazier. Come for a weekend getaway. Stay for the head trauma.
Now. One cannot help but get the sense that there is some serious love for Evil Dead laced in among the head shots. I don't know if it is my own subconscious doing this but by golly do I think Wither whiffs of Sam Raimi's seminal horror film. And if Albin doesn't remind you of Ash at the end of the film then I just don't know. Sadly, there isn't a chainsaw. Then again, that would be too obvious.
Wither is produced, written and directed by the three members of Stockholm Syndrome Film: Tommy Wiklund, Sonny Laguna and David Liljeblad. The three have worked together for a couple years now and near as I can tell this is their third feature film. Seeing as the trio wrote, produced and directed this film, I believe an objective presence in their future productions would help tighten up scripts and focus their energies for the better. The third act ultimately gets bogged down by this unnecessary need to bring closure to any emotional binds in the story line. All that energy and excitement generated during the second act simply vanishes and the film stumbles as it draws to a close. But, I think these guys could do wonders for a studio feature. If a good producer can balance their enthusiasm and creativity, I think this trio can help make a name for Sweden on the European genre scene.
Wither is not a great horror film. It is a good horror film with a strong and violent second act but ultimately ends weak and disabled. However, don't let that discourage you from seeing it if you can because Wither is gloriously violent and gory. It more than makes up for all its shortcomings.