My Haiku Revu of Wither:
Please check family for,
Black vomit, rolling eyes, sharp bite,
If found; run very fast
The film opens to a verdant scene, a hunter returning to his family finds his other half kneeling over their daughter. The wife slowly stands up and reveals bite marks to the girl’s neck and a swiftly growing crimson pool staining the muddy green woodland floor. The wife is no longer human, with milky white eyes, mottled skin, a bestial snarl and has to be stopped in her tracks with a perfect head shot delivered by the shocked husband. As he takes in what has happened, the wife smoothly levitates to her feet and a second loud report triggers the opening credits.
Cue the appearance of a group of twenty-something Swedish “yout”. who travel to the same lonely spot. Their mission; to get wasted and spend a weekend at an abandoned chalet nearby that one of their fathers sourced for their getaway. Curiosity gets the better of a nublet who loses her soul in the dark recesses of a basement and becomes patient zero for the rest of the bitey mayhem which follows leaving the hunter and the remaining weekenders to try and contain the carnage.
There have been some complaints that Wither is nothing more than a modern clone of the original Evil Dead. At first glance it certainly shares some of the same DNA, with ghoulish decayed antagonists that can pass on their infection to others, a spooky basement housing an evil power and a group of friends whittled down to their brass tacks. This is however more than a cheap reskin, with decent monster effects, and some genuinely frightening moments as the protagonists try and avoid infection from their erstwhile chums. By creating a small vector for passing on bad mojo the director has revisited a mechanic that allowed the characters a larger window of opportunity for escape, making the eventual fate of any that succumbed all the more painful to watch. The infection route is similar to Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness but the constrained camera shots and faster pacing make the transformations and reactions much more effective.
I managed to wangle a couple of the return tickets at the very edge of the first row during the recent Frightfest screening, and in spite of the oblique angle was impressed. The film contains genuinely scary moments and a well rendered central monster, I’m giving this a don’t-slip-on-the-black-vomit-ichor two thumbs up award.