Wither Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund
Written by Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund and David Liljeblad
2013, 95 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 23rd June 2014
Patrik Almqvist as Albin
Kisa Henni as Ida
Amanda Renberg as Linnea
Johannes Brost as Gunnar
Max Wallmo as Markus
Patrick Saxe as Simon
Ingar Sigvardsdotter as Karin
Jessica Blomkvist as Marie
Julia Knutson as Lisa
The first release of the trailer for Wither immediately raises speculation of its mimicry of Evil Dead, and whenever those two words sit next to one another and clamber into a new movie’s description, it tends to trigger a wave of excitement and an unnerving anticipation among genre fans. Here, the excitement is fully worthwhile. And the two appearances in the Film4 Frightfest programme help prove it.
Renowned for cult hits like Let The Right One In (2008), Troll Hunter (2010), Not Like Others (2008) and Dead Snow (2009), Scandinavia seems to be pumping out its fair share of genre movies, and Wither co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund are among the handful of Swedish filmmakers proving that their native country’s contribution to horror is up there with the rest of their Nordic neighbours. Having riskily experimented with Swedish actors in English-language roles in cabin-in-the-woods slasher Blood Runs Cold- their first collaborative effort - Wither marks their first native-language feature.
Albin (Patrik Almkvist), his girlfriend Ida (Lisa Henni) and his twenty-something friends embark on a weekend away at a cabin, only to find that it’s locked when they arrive. When Marcus (Max Wallmo) dares Marie (Jessica Blomkvist) to climb through a back window to scare the others, she finds herself stumbling upon a hatch in the wooden floorboards. Though Marie descends into the basement simply out of a playful curiosity, something evil encompasses her and she resurfaces as a wicked creature set to bring terror on everyone.
Wither’s framework screams Evil Dead from its gory attack set pieces, the awakening of a historic curse, the blood-soaked look of affected victims, and of course, the cabin in the woods. Those scrutinising its every sequence may even assume that the character Albin rocking the familiar blue shirt is a symbolic reference to our beloved hero Ash. Who knows, maybe it is. But peer past its resembling surface and you can see that Laguna and Wiklund are striving to do a lot more here.
It’s a slow and typical start, toying with the misfit group’s pranks, angst and quarrel, which hardly sets itself apart from every other camp flick. But from the moment disaster strikes, it throws full throttle devotion to characterisation, and each member is individually dissected in one way or another from the one dimensional group mould. It intermittently steps back from the fast-paced bloody brutality to catch its breath, only to take yours away as its arty vibe seamlessly waltzes through a stream of poignant and intriguing character-led scenes.
Produced on microbudget limits, the evidence of its low production values creep through in some of the lingering close ups. Otherwise though, it’s a fine and masterful display of the modern B-movie, nostalgically bringing horror back to its basics. Raw, gritty make up-effects splash the screen, stretching and savouring every penny, coupled with atmospheric string instrumentals and a catalogue of quirky camera movements. Its heavy use of panning shots from one scene or character to the next makes full use of the cabin’s inherent claustrophobia and entrapment, and succeeds to create a mindful awareness of the cabin’s lair, something that somewhat lacked in Fede Alvarez’ recent remake of Evil Dead.
Laguna and Wiklund have come a long way in moulding their creativity to produce more suspenseful set pieces and refining their effects since Blood Runs Cold. Wither joins Swedish horror drama Marianne and psychological horror-thriller Mara among others with this year’s releases, and, having already made a start on their next feature (yes, it’s a cabin horror!), it’s fair to say that Laguna and Wiklund are making a noteworthy contribution to the centrefold of European horror.