REVIEW: WITHER / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SONNY LAGUNA, TOMMY WIKLUND / SCREENPLAY: SONNY LAGUNA, DAVID LILJEBLAD, TOMMY WIKLUND / STARRING: PATRIK ALMKVIST, LISA HENNI, PATRICK SAXE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund's Wither (Vittra) is a cabin-in-the-woods horror marketed as the next Evil Dead, chalking up another title to the burgeoning zombie scene in Sweden. There’s plenty of similarities to Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic, including a trap door which the Vittra lurks beneath. Like Cheryl, troubled Marie is also the first of the gang afflicted.
What Wither does best is mix the traditional trappings of the zombie subgenre with Scandinavian folklore. The Vitter is a mythological creature that, while not necessarily malignant, has been given an unsettling and contemporary reimagining. The cabin, culturally speaking, has more validity in Sweden, making it a more viable and, frankly, believable getaway destination.
Laguna and Wiklund made the most of a modest 300,000 SEK/£27,000 (approx) budget with enough grizzly goings on to keep gorehounds sated. The digital effects, however, just aren’t up to scratch; the CG dust and rain makes it feel as though you’re watching a 3D film without the specks on. There’s an overuse of filter effects, giving Instagram-style cinematography in what appears to be an attempt to capture a classic horror vibe. Instead it gives the impression of an over-copied VHS. A video nasty it isn’t.
The zombies are especially effective and more than a little creepy, however. It’s amazing what a few buckets of blood and milky contact lenses can do. The Vittra itself looks like something that limped off of a Fulchi set and, as with Perseus fighting the Medusa, it can only cause you harm if you look directly into its eyes.
It’s difficult enough to root for attractive twenty-somethings with fabulous haircuts, but in Wither it’s an art. All the characters are impractically dressed for a woodland retreat and favour running upstairs for safety instead of out the door and to their cars. Like most folks in zombie films, none of them appear to have any prior knowledge of the living dead.
The most stomach churning violence is directed against the female characters, with the men dispatching them in a variety of unsettling ways, including beheading, head smashing, a flurry of stabbings and several accounts of repeated punching. Still, there’s no gratuitous sex or nudity and that really is a rare bonus.
The ending undermines what little merit the rest of the film possesses, leaving it as flat and lifeless like so many undead. The moral of the story, as ever, is to decline any and all offers of woodland cabin retreats.