DIRECTOR Sonny Laguna; Tommy Wiklund WRITER Sonny Laguna; Tommy Wiklund; David Liljeblad STARS Patrik Almkvist; Lisa Henni; Patrick Saxe DVD 23 June
There’s a lot to enjoy in this Swedish shocker, particularly if you’re a fan of practical effects work and of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, as Wither is a virtual remake of the influential 80s classic. You know the drill by now: a group of friends go and spend the weekend in a house deep in the woods, manage to unleash hell, and spend the rest of the time getting picked off in gruesome ways until the last one is left standing. Wither works because, well, let’s be honest, this template has been running successfully for over 30 years, but also because writer/producer/directors Tommy Wiklund, Sonny Laguna and David Liljeblad have a genuine love for the source material, and keep the energy running high until the last frame. It does get a little lost in the last half-hour as some emotional loose ends are pointlessly tied up, and the performances are about as good as you’ll be expecting, but this scores high on tension, some good scares, and splatter.
Ah yes, this movie revels in an outrageous amount of blood and gore from the moment the first demon is unleashed on screen and rarely lets up. Clearly these Swedes know exactly what the audience wants to see and throw in every gruesome idea they can think of — decapitations; throat-ripping; exploding bodies — that truly earn it the label ‘gore-soaked’. It’s all done in pretty poor taste and is none the worse for it, and only the most conservative will be offended rather than entertained. Patrik Almkvist makes for a typically dumb hero, firmly in the ‘Ash’ mould (sadly there’s no chainsaw on offer), but by the time the credits roll you’ll want to see more of him, as you will from this talented production trio. Wither is totally unoriginal, hugely entertaining, and a far superior homage to The Evil Dead than Fede Alvarez’s weak remake (review here) from a couple of years ago. A very pleasant surprise that you’d be wrong to miss.