DIRECTED BY SONNY LAGUNA,
STARRING PATRIK ALMKVIST
RUNNING TIME 95 MINS
RLEASED 2012 (SWEDEN)
For those of you partial to a bit of ultra low budget horror, allow me to introduce you to Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, creators and owners of Stockholm Syndrome Films. Last heard of in late 2011, they broke onto the genre circuit with a taut little slasher with a fiendishly inventive lead villain - Blood Runs Cold was a criminally underrated micro budget nasty that deserved alot more attention than it initially got. Sure, the lead actress Hannah Oldenberg’s performance proved so abysmal it stunk out most of the film’s more thrilling sequences and yes, there are indeed some ridiculous gaps in the film’s logic that simply couldn't be ignored but it had more frantic fun in the final forty minutes than most of the more championed releases making the cut that year.
So Laguna and Wiklund are back to take another stab at a truly back to basics horror with Wither, hoping to bring some unique Swedish lore to the undead genre. We now have a much bigger playing field than BRC, expanding from a lone final girl battling her monstrous assailant to a whole ensemble cast getting methodically picked off one by one as a supernatural force takes hold of their souls. The set up promises that all kinds of crazy ass shit is about to hit the proverbial fan.
Wither sure as hell looks a million miles from BRC as far as production values go, a dynamic opening demon attack amidst the fury of a mountain storm gets things off to an electrifying start – suddenly we all too quickly find ourselves back in that old familiar and territory of clunky character introduction – we follow a gang of largely unlikeable young teens (who all look a little too close to thirty to be seen exploring abandoned sheds in the middle of the woods) as the script tries to give us someone to identify with whilst laying out the general geography of the house of the upcoming carnage. Partying is discussed and personalities clash – you could very well skip this part and not miss a single thing. The performances are not great but definitely a huge improvement from BRC’s. It’s not until the final reel that the character begins to flesh out a bit. So far, so dull. Not that this is the only horror guilty of just not letting this horror trope go and shouldn't be chastised for it too much - things are about to take a turn for the scarier, I assure you.
One thing we have to remember when watching Wither – and even Blood Runs Cold - is that when the directors tell us they are operating on a micro budget, they really fucking are doing just that. Every penny is on the screen. It’s clear that when the pacing ramps up and the teens begin their descent into hell, the budget is struggling to keep up. Some make up effects do indeed fall short when the camera lingers too long and sound design is lacking in certain areas, taking the sting from some otherwise thrilling demon attacks but the spirit of American horror is here and much more evident than in films from the country that spawned it. Their passion for the genre is more than obvious, it big and gooey and dripping from every frame.
Pacing is taut, only giving brief respite from the carnage for a brief moment before dipping into the chaos again, much like the pacing of the film that no doubt inspired it, The Evil Dead. The first possession kicks off with a pretty ingenious idea – if you ever wondered just why a zombie’s eyes turn completely white, you’ll get a pretty cool answer here. This is old school zombie blood and carnage that at sometimes is so downright messy, it almost drips from the screen. Sure it has its faults but you’ll be so exhausted by the final few minutes you’ll leave this one satisfied for sure.
Review by Aaron Williams