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Wither (2012)

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Wither (2013)Starring Patrik Almkvist, Lisa Henni, Patrick Saxe

Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund


“Say goodbye to your friends,” reads the tagline of Blood Runs Cold directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund’s new Evil Dead-inspired gorefest Wither — and it couldn’t be more succinctly apt an overview of what this wonderful little indie is all about.

An out-and-out unapologetic homage to Sam Raimi’s seminal classic, Wither sees a group of young friends set out for a weekend of partying at a cabin in the woods, only to fall foul of a soul-stealing entity residing in the cellar. Rather than an evil book or other demonic totem, in this outing directors Laguna and Wiklund make use of a folklorish creature said to reside underground. Should anyone trespass on the land of these creatures, they may face their wrath — and to look one in the eyes would see it rip the soul from your body. So, of course, soon after arriving at the cabin, one of the party-seekers takes a look at the thing concealed below and the wheels are set in motion.

Later that night, the afflicted member begins bleeding from most orifices, before collapsing and finally attacking a friend, gorily ripping the upper lip from her face in a display of delightfully old-school practical effects work. Abruptly joined by the rifle-toting Gunnar (Johannes Brost), whose family has also succumbed to the evil at work, the remaining group set about contacting the police and attempting to decide on a way out, and how to help their friend. Sadly for them, they soon find it impossible to keep up with the rapidly-spreading tide of possession and death as one by one they’re either turned by their now-monstrous amigos or hacked to bits.

Film4 FrightFest - Wither ReviewWither makes no big bones about what it is, refusing to delve too deep into developing its characters in favour of getting to the demonic goods — yet Laguna and Wiklund pull it off in grand style with a display of genuine affection for the genre, some great low-budget atmosphere and grainy film visuals (likely added in post-production, yet never imbuing the film with that ultra-fake “Grindhouse” look) that match perfectly to the carnage that unfolds. The various gore effects are rarely less than fantastic for a film with such a limited budget, utilising a mix of prosthetic effects with subtle CGI, and likewise the locations and setups reek of a quality grasped far beyond the means. It’s wonderfully obvious throughout that every single sliver of money behind this project has made it onto the screen.

There’s little more to know about Wither, as the general setup has been seen a whole bunch of times before — several friends go to a cabin and are forced to mutilate their possessed companions as the numbers whittle down. Of special note amongst the cast is Patrik Almkvist as Albin, whose late-game encounter with the Medusa-like creature from the cellar elicits such an authentically panicked and weary wail of “No no no no no!” as he scrambles to get away that it’ll slap a grin right across your face.

This is an indie homage done right, loaded with love for the genre and behind-the-scenes talent to boot. While I’m no fan of the directing duo’s previous effort, Blood Runs Cold, Laguna and Wiklund have hit a home run with Wither. It’s grim, gory and horrific — and while by no means perfect (the ending is particularly unsatisfying — lacking dynamism or energy for what should be a rewarding final struggle against the central evil), it’s a top-class effort made with little resources by a team who obviously really care about what they’re doing. In fact, it’s probably the best Evil Dead movie that isn’t an Evil Dead movie. There’s doubtless no better accolade for it than that, and any fan of Raimi’s now legendary debut should readily devour it.

4 out of 5

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

Directed by James S. Brown

We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

8 out of 10.

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Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time

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Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux

Directed by Warren Speed


The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.

An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.

Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.

Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.

Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.

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User Rating 2.94 (17 votes)
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The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods

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Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Directed by Martin Gooch


Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?

In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.

Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.

Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.

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Summary

Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.

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User Rating 3.56 (18 votes)
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