Ida and Albin travel to a cabin in the Swedish woodlands for a holiday with friends, but something waits for them under the floorboards.
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Wither (aka Vittra) has sometimes been written off as simply the Swedish version of Evil Dead. Sure, there are a few similarities, mostly to the 2013 version of Evil Dead, which came out a year after this film, by the way.
Wither is an unsettling, no-nonsense horror movie that does not have a quirky, sarcastic protagonist. There is no Ash equivalent here. No chainsaw hand attachments, and no boom sticks either. So maybe we should just accept that a group of friends going to a cabin in the woods and having some form of horror befall them is a standard trope of horror films, and admit that not all of them need be compared to the Raimi classic, they can be appreciated (or criticized) for what they are, not what they remind us of. So let’s just talk about a disturbing 2012 film from Sweden, made by writers/directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund and co-writer David Liljeblad, that can stand on its own and is called Wither.
What impresses me right away about Wither is that it starts already turned up to 10 and never lets up. Rather than bothering with a long backstory, we jump right in, head first, and watch as a man in the woods comes across a woman tearing out a young girl’s throat.
He pulls his gun and dispatches of the two before the opening credits even have a chance to roll, before we even have a chance to figure out what kind of demonic violence is going on. The images and illustrations flashing in the background of the opening title sequence hint toward some kind of folklore detailing an ancient evil. And very soon the table is set, as seven friends reach an old, unused for some time, cabin in the forest. Let the bloodshed commence.
It would seem that we have too many characters to keep track of at first – there are seven friends staying at the cabin, plus the older man we saw at the beginning – but much like many slasher films of the 80’s, some (i.e. most) of these folks are not going to last very long; our protagonists are Albin (Patrik Almkvist) and Ida (Lisa Henni). And then there’s poor Marie (Jessica Blomkvist), who is convinced to wait in the house and scare the friends when they come in, but ends up encountering something horrible while she waits. Her health quickly deteriorates, she begins to bleed, and then all hell breaks loose and no one is safe.
Wither manages to take the idea of friends trapped in the woods by an unknown evil and combine it with folklore and possession for a tense, gory, and even sometimes emotional ride.
The effects work here is fantastic, with plenty of disturbing visuals throughout the film, all the way until the last moments. And we’re talking practical effects here, not CGI. Especially effective is the initial transformation sequence, when the first of the group changes from living, breathing, smiling friend to decomposing, bloodthirsty monster – there is a scene that certainly will haunt anyone with an aversion to eye trauma (like me). And that’s just the beginning.
There is a whole lot of blood and viscera in this movie, and not in a Dead Alive, tongue in cheek kind of way. No, this is a very dark and disturbing horror film that sticks with you well after the first viewing, which, to be honest, is kind of what we are all hoping for every time we watch the opening credits of a new film roll, right?
Wither is an all-out, pedal to the metal, horror film, a perfect choice for a late night, home alone, dark-and-stormy-out viewing. There’s a lot of heart on screen, right along with a whole lot of carnage. The film making team of Laguna/Wiklund/Liljeblad (working together under the moniker Stockholm Syndrome Films) have quite the good thing going here.
They’ve managed to put together some good looking, enjoyable horror films on fairly low budgets featuring high quality effects work. And with each film, they seem to get a little darker, a little creepier, and a little more brutal. I can only imagine what will come next, but I very much look forward to it.