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Wither (2012)

Artspoitation Films
DVD Released: 8/20/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/20/2013

Someone call Sam Raimi's lawyer and let him know that a rip-off of The Evil Dead has been made. Not so that he can sue, but so that he can call Raimi and let him know that someone made a movie that is light years ahead of the Evil Dead remake. I suppose that Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert are happy with the box-office results of their recent reboot of the first film, but it's important to know that there are still young filmmakers out there attempting to recapture the spirit of Raimi's original classic.

As Wither opens, we meet Albin (Patrik Almkwist) and Ida (Lisa Henni), a happy young couple who want to plan a getaway with their friends. Albin's father is able to find a house in the country for them. So, the couple, along with their companions, Simon (Patrick Saxe), Markus (Max Wallmo), Linnea (Amanda Renberg), Marie (Jessica Blomkvist), and Tove (Anna Henriksson), head for the remote location. When they find the house, it is locked. Markus convinces Marie to climb through a window in order to open the door. Once inside, instead of doing this, she goes into the basement, where she witnesses something bizarre. Later, once everyone is inside, the group gathers for a meal, but Marie reports that she isn't feeling well. That's an understatement, as she begins to attack her friends. They soon realize that they have entered a nightmare where anyone can become a violent monster at anytime and there is no escaping from the isolated house.

OK, first things first -- Is Wither a shameless rip-off of The Evil Dead? Yes. Does that automatically make it a bad movie? No. The film comes from a pair of young Swedish filmmakers Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (who also share writing credits with David Liljeblad) who have made what could easily be considered their own remake of The Evil Dead with a few exceptions. They've bumped up the number of people in the house to seven -- eight if you count another who suddenly appears. The house is fairly large, as opposed to a small cabin. Instead of originating from a book, the evil begins with a soul-stealing monster which is part of Norse folklore. The evil can then be spread via bodily fluids. As previously noted, another person joins the party and they give some background information on what is happening -- it's vague, but it's better than nothing.

Other than those things, the film follows The Evil Dead formula pretty closely. One by one the occupants of the house are overtaken by the violent rage and the uninfected must somehow injure their friends in order to save themselves. Unlike Evil Dead, Laguna and Wiklund are able to capture the spirit of Raimi's film by casting an apocalyptic tone to the film -- once the supernatural activity begins, we get the feeling that no on is getting out alive. Also, the movie doesn't shy away from having everyone covered in blood. While there seems to be abundant gore here, when you really analyze it, you see that there are only a handful of special effects makeup shots, but this doesn't stop each character from wearing a cloak of red by the time it's all said and done. Once the action begins, there is very little in the way of plot or any real suspense about who will get overtaken next. The film becomes an exercise in survival horror (to snatch a term from the world of video games) and we watch to see how those yet to be infected will stay alive for the next few minutes.

I'd love to say that Wither is a fun movie, but it isn't, as this is a fairly bleak, straight-ahead horror movie. I would also like to say that, other than the fact that it isn't very original, it's flawless, but it certainly has its problems. The way in which Marie suddenly explores the basement instead of opening the front door makes no sense whatsoever and the movie feels a bit redundant in the second half. Still, if you can look past The Evil Dead similarities, this is a satisfying horror film which has a good finale and left me with hope for the future of scary movies from Sweden.

Wither also borrows a little something from Clash of the Titans on DVD courtesy of Artsploitation Films. The movie has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. In the extra features, we see that the movie was shot on HD cameras, but the finished product definitely has a film look, complete with grain and defects on the image. The good news is that they didn't go Grindhouse overboard on the thing, and the appearance is that of film, as opposed to that of an old, worn out film. The image is somewhat dark at times, but the colors look good. The level of detail is OK, but some shots look soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track makes good use of stereo and surround effects, some of which are nicely detailed. A storm rages outside for most of the film and the rain and wind coming from the rear speakers is palpable and effective.

The Wither DVD contains a few extras. "Behind the Scenes" (32 minutes) is simply "fly on the wall" video from the set. We don't get any true interviews here, but we do occasionally hear from those involved. For the most part, we see how certain scenes were staged, see the preparations of the special effects makeup, and watch the cast and crew relaxing between setups. This allows us to see that the movie was shot on a tiny camera which looks like a still camera. The DVD contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about eight minutes. This is actually a deleted sequence, as it shows an extended version of the finale. I liked this ending, as it answered the "How is he not going to jail?" question. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.