Review: WITHER (2014){0}

It would of course be a massive understatement to say that Sam Raimi’s mid-’80s indie classic horror flick The Evil Dead is a memorable or influential movie. The film inspired a supremely excellent sequel in Evil Dead 2, a widely-adored sorta-sequel in Army of Darkness, and has inspired not only a pretty impressive remake (Evil Dead) but also a wonderfully clever homage (The Cabin in the Woods) that truly struck a chord with the horror film fans.

The flip-side to all of that good stuff is that, logically, The Evil Dead has also inspired a whole lot of independent films that are little more than half-hearted remakes, retreads, or outright ripoffs. The new Swedish import called Wither is none of those things; it feels like a legitimate love letter to the original Evil Dead, and that’s certainly cool to see. But after a while Wither starts to feel like it’s using Sam Raimi’s film less like an inspiration and more like a simple crutch.

Having said that, and if you’re willing to pretend that Wither actually is a Swedish remake of The Evil Dead, there’s certainly a lot of low-budget creativity, energy, and effort on display. Putting aside that the plot, setting, characters, and the tone are pretty much Evil Dead all the way, Wither still stands as evidence of filmmakers who want to shock, scare, and gross the hell out of their viewers. If we have to take a big dose of a familiar formula to enjoy a throwback splatter flick from another culture, that seems a small price to pay. In other words, Wither is still pretty fun stuff.

You want a plot synopsis? Sure. Five friends go to a cabin and mess with forces they shouldn’t mess with. After a very familiar 20-some minutes of set-up, however, co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (Blood Runs Cold) throw some demonic insanity at the screen – and they never let up. By now I’ve made it clear that Wither will never win any awards for originality, but the co-directors and whoever else edited this legitimately gore-soaked horror flick keep the lunacy coming at an almost ridiculous pace. There are a few slight wrinkles in the plot department (including a recent victim who’s there mainly to offer us some gruesome backstory) but where Wither succeeds is in fast pacing, unpredictable shocks, and some wonderfully disgusting practical effects and make-up.

The cast is solid enough, even if all they’re asked to do is suffer through horrific possessions and buckets of visceral punishment. The co-directors also do a fine job of setting a gloomy tone through shadows and music, which always helps. Had Laguna and Wiklund injected a little (OK, a lot) more originality into the screenplay,Wither might stand out as something especially memorable, but taken as it stands, the movie is still an entertaining little demon story for the horror fans who appreciate enthusiastic geysers of gore.


Scott Weinberg

Wither is available to stream or download here