It’s off to Sweden this time out for your Favorite Catgirl to hopefully get herself some Scandinavian scares with a look at the recent Region 1 DVD release of “Vittra” aka “Wither”, the Swedish made low budget homage to the 1981 horror classic “Evil Dead”. This wee lady loved the original… and I’m always up for some scary stuff complete with subtitles, so was there any chance I’d pass this one up? Heck no…. 😉
Our synopsis? Well… if you’ve seen “Evil Dead”, (and if you haven’t, my question would have to be, “Why the heck not?”) you’ll recognize this plot pretty quickly, but here it goes:“Ida and Albin are a happy couple. They set off to a cabin in the vast Swedish woodlands to have a fun holiday with their friends. But under the floorboards waits an ancient Evil from Sweden’s dark past. An Evil that corrupts all who encounter it…”
Ahhh… this one relies on that classic old plot. Horny twenty somethings off to the woods for some naughty hi-jinx… creepy old deserted house in the middle of nowhere… ancient evil monsters in the cellar… and bloody gory death served up with lots of old school practical special effects. Yep, Neko’s been there before, and it’s usually a pretty rock solid plot for a simple old school horror story. But… one can screw it up… it’s hard to do mind you, but it can be done. Will the Swedes get it right? Only one sure way to know… 😉
Anyways… ever since “Evil Dead” came out back in the 80’s, there have been oodles and oodles of imitators, some bad, some not so bad, that have all tried to mine that same old plot combination of scary thrills and buckets of gore done on the cheap to make cinema gold at the box office. Can’t really say I blame them for trying. With it’s small cast… single set… and low budget, it made out like a bandit by doing “more with less” than any other horror movie then or since this side of “The Blair Witch Project”.
If you’ve seen “Evil Dead”, then you would easily recognize the same story being used here.We start off with some freaky zombie action as one of our characters, Gunnar (played by Johannes Brost)…. on some sort of camping trip waaay out in the middle of the Swedish boondocks, is frantically searching for his wife and daughter. He finds them alright… but unfortunately his loving wife has gone all demonic and cannibalistic on their little girl Lisa. One large caliber bullet to the noggin later and our story shifts to our real main characters, Ida and Albin (played by Lisa Henni and Patrik Almkvist respectively) as they are in the process of planning a getaway excursion with some friends at a remote deserted house discovered by Albin’s dad. Huh? Yep… that struck both Carolyn and I as pretty darn strange that Albin’s dad would have some kind of work that would just let him know about abandoned houses that his son could basically break into and use for free. There’s no effort made to explain it at all… or the fact that he can also turn on the electrical service to the house without anybody knowing any difference. Made us wonder if he also knows the secret to free pay cable too, Hehehe!! 😉
But… odd creepy and possibly illegal parental assistance aside… it isn’t long before Ida has a few of her best girlfriends, Linnea (played by Amanda Renberg), Tove (played by Anna Henriksson) and Marie (played by Jessica Blomkvist), along with one of Albin’s best buddies Markus (played by Max Wallmo), and her sleazy Lothario brother Simon (played by Patrick Saxe) all on board for this weekend getaway. Once they all get to the lonely old house it isn’t long before the bad stuff starts….
You see… this isn’t just some deserted old house… it sits on top of the lair of a “Vittra”. A what, you ask?
Well… according to Wikipedia the Swedish Vittra or Vættir (from the Old Norse), also called wights, are nature spirits in the old Norse religion.Dwelling underground they are believed to be the guardians of specific places, such as wild places or farms. Usually invisible, they normally don’t disturb humans… unless you trespass upon those places they consider theirs without observing the proper rituals. What do they do if you don’t show them respect? Well according to this movie… apparently when you are stupid or unlucky enough to look one directly in the eyes, they steal your soul and curse you to turn you into some sort of homicidal undead monster.
Our crazy Vittra lives in the cellar of course, right beneath a trapdoor just like the deadites out of “Evil Dead” and after unlucky Marie goes snooping around the basement she’s the first one infected with the curse. From that point on, our movie follows the formula pretty darn closely, with each person getting wounded or splashed by the blood of one of the cursed ones and slowly turning evil and eventually needing to be killed by their friends… sometimes over and over again. That’s really the weakest part of “Wither”… as there’s no real rhyme or reason to destroying the cursed people. Some are finished off by a single bullet to the brain… others need to be chopped to bits or beheaded to stop them. It doesn’t even get explained once Gunnar shows up, tells them the horrible story of what’s happened to his family and fills them in with what little folklore he knows. As a result, a viewer is left a bit at a loss as to exactly what the heck needs to happen to end all the horror.At least my sweetie Carolyn was… and for once, I didn’t have a clue either to help fill things in.
Mind you… this is where being a bit of a Scandinavian clone of “Evil Dead” actually works in the story’s favor. It’s easy to just shrug your noggin’ and roll with things because you know the bulk of the plot will now happily revolve around the gory battle between the living and the cursed while we all get to enjoy the crazy bloodbath as it unfolds. Just don’t expect to figure out why it’s happening, and you’re probably good. Wondering how it’s all gonna end? Lets just say if you saw “Evil Dead” you already know it’s not gonna end well for our lil’ cast… so Neko’s not gonna spoil things by revealing more than that….. 😉
All in all, seen as a homage to a horror classic, I have to say, it mostly works. The plot’s a classic on “recycle”, but still holds up overall. The acting is good, although no single actor stands out in any memorable way. The “old school” practical special effects and make-ups are neat, something that’s being sadly neglected these days in most modern films now that CGI is so pervasive in modern horror films. You won’t be blown away by this one… but boy will it bring back those old “midnight movie” 80’s memories for those of us horror fans raised on the classics. For me at least, “Wither” earns a respectable 3 “Meows” out of 5 making it a good choice for a scary movie night on the couch.
The Region 1 DVD comes widescreen, with the original Swedish audio track and excellent English subtitles. There’s a “Making Of” feature, also subbed, as well as some deleted scenes… as well as an extended ending sequence edited off of the original theatrical release, all worth a look as well. It’s available from new DVD label Artsploitation Films for around 16-24 $ US depending upon where you choose to buy a copy.
You want a trailer before we go? Oh yeah… worry not, a certain wee Catgirl’s got ya covered… 😉