Wither is another testament as to why it’s a terrible idea to spend your vacation time in a secluded cabin in the woods. Seven twenty-something friends decide to spend their weekend away in a cabin far outside of civilization, but their plans of fun derails when one friend unleashes an evil from the basement that turns them one by one into flesh hungry shells of their former selves.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Wither feels very much like Sweden’s homage to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. What is in the basement isn’t a book bound in human flesh, however, but a creature from Scandinavian folklore known as a Vitter. Wither’s alternate title is Vittra, which is the plural for Vitter. A Vitter is an underground dwelling entity that is very territorial and unleashes hell on the person that invades its space, especially if you happen to build a home right on top of its abode. If you come across one, do not look into its eyes or it will steal your soul, replacing it with something much more malevolent.
Aside from the unique folklore behind the source of the bloodbath, the rest of the film plays out as expected. The first friend to lose their soul begins attacking the others, and the infection spreads if they’re bitten or get infected blood in their system. None in the group are developed or memorable in any way, save for the main couple who the audience is meant to root for as they spend a little time at the beginning demonstrating how much they are in love. The rest may have one distinct trait that sets them apart, like womanizer, jerk, or comic relief, but it feels cliché to the point of tedium. Without feeling anything for these characters, the short running time can feel a bit stretched in certain scenes.
Also typical is the characters’ inability to make rational decisions. When two are given the opportunity to leave, they instead barricade themselves inexplicably upstairs. Set deep in the woods, cell phones somehow still work, so it’s puzzling why no one used that to their advantage either.
What Wither lacks in originality is made up for in gore. Once the possessed are let loose, thick congealed blood covers nearly everything before long. The characters rampage through the cabin covered head to toe in the sticky substance, and often leave a trail of it behind them. The dark camera filter only enhances the gritty aesthetic, furthering the throwback feel to The Evil Dead. Joint directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund display their affection for carnage as they ramp up the violence.
There are great moments of suspense and jump scares but the emotional impact of the climax underwhelms due to the detachment toward any of the characters. Of the seven friends, three men and four women, two of the men seemed to have no reticence in pummeling the women. A certain scene induced cringing horror as one of the men brutally took a shovel to a female’s face in the early stages of infection. The scene was noteworthy as she sobbed and pleaded, not yet inhabited by the flesh eating demon she’d eventually become, making you question if some of these friends didn’t already possess some sociopathic tendencies.
Like the Evil Dead, Wither takes a group of friends and slaughters them in vicious fashion one by one, but unlike the original there is no Ash to rally behind. The unique twist of weaving folklore into a classic doesn’t shine as it should, as so little time is spent developing the mythology. The concept could have been elevated into something so much more, therefore raising Wither into something above just a love letter to the Evil Dead.
Plot disappointments aside, Wither does offer a ruthless gore fest that offers enjoyment in terms of special effects and scares. Sweden still has little in its horror repertoire, so it’s nice to see them add to their catalog. And what better way than by paying respect to one of horror’s best?