Editor’s note: Rob was so moved by his screening of Wither at the 2013 Stanley Film Festival that he was inspired to present his review in a very special format: as an imagined dialogue between its co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund. Enjoy.
A coffee shop, sometime in 2012, somewhere in Sweden
Sonny Laguna: Tommy my friend! Thanks so much for meeting me today.
Tommy Wiklund: Well 200 voicemails are hard to ignore, Sonny. What can I do for you?
SL: I have an idea for our next movie.
TW: Is it the Heidi remake where she’s bitten by a rabid squirrel and then eats her own grandfather? I already told you I wasn’t interested in that one.
SL: No no, it’s better. But we’ll come back to that later. This is a completely fresh idea that came to me while watching the latest Josh Wheaton film.
TW: You mean Joss Whedon? The Avengers? You know we can’t afford to make a superhero movie.
SL: No no, the one about the cabin in the woods. I forget the title.
TW: I don’t think Whedon dire-
SL: The movie doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there’s a small throw away bit in there that I think would make for a wonderfully original movie. Picture this. A group of sexy young people head to a ca-
TW: Cabin in the woods.
SL: Yes! Did you see the movie too?
TW: Obviously, but I-
SL: Anyway, they go to the cabin and awaken an evil down in the basement that one by one turns them into flesh-eating demons. Or something. Soul-less shells whose only purpose is to kill the living. It’s like nothing anyone has done before.
TW: I cannot tell if you are being serious with me right now or if you’re pulling my leg.
SL: I am.
SL: Our characters will consist of a group of friends forced to fight each other to survive, which, hello, automatic character drama. One of the couples can be very much in love, and the audience will worry for them! It will be gory and cheap to produce too!
TW: Okay, I like cheap to produce. But what’s the evil in the basement? We need a backstory of some kind to explain the soul-sucking.
SL: A top secret government agency whose sole purpose is to organize seemingly random and horrific events involving monsters of various kinds that kill genre character archetypes to appease ancient gods?
SL: Yeah, you’re right. Too complicated. Have I already said rabies?
TW: What about a legendary creature that lives underground? We can have old drawings and paintings show what people believe it to look like, and maybe add an older character in the beginning who’s not with the group and who explains it to them and the audience.
SL: Oooh, Sigourney Weaver maybe?
TW: Here is my concern, Sonny. What will make our film stand apart from The Evil Dead, Evil Dead or the dozens of knock-offs over the years?
SL: Evil Dead you say?
TW: Stop it. We need a hook, something to make ours unique. How can we make our characters more appealing, interesting and deep than the ones usually found in horror movies?
SL: Well, the guys can have funny haircuts, and the girls will be very cute.
TW: Good enough. But we need to make sure our characters behave rationally and with common sense. They should be smart and react like real people.
SL: Or… we just won’t worry about it. Trust me, the audience will be too in love with our effects and gore to care how someone acts. Speaking of which, we should probably only hire one or two professional actors.
TW: Let’s table that casting discussion, but talk to me about the visuals. Shoot we shoot it on a RED or Phantom?
SL: Well the effects will be a mix of impressive practical gore and inconsistent digital work to make the eyes of the living dead characters noticeable. And I was thinking we could film it on my mom’s Canon Elph… the picture will look poor but it will give it a style-less look that people will enjoy.
TW: So, to sum up, our movie is about a group of friends who descend on a remote cabin for some sexy fun times, which we won’t show because we’re above pandering, and one of them will become afflicted by our basement evil. She bites someone else, who in turn becomes afflicted, and so on and so on. They will not be smart characters, probably not even likeable in fact, the movie will feature lots of blood and a few bits of gore and everything will play out exactly as horror fans will know to expect.
SL: Yes. This is why we are best friends Tommy. We are in synch. We are of the same mind. We are-
TW: I’m still not making Heidi: The Rabid Mountain Girl.
SL: Yes yes, we’ll just make Wither instead. For now.
The Upside: A few cool effects shots, some brief Medusa-inspired creepiness in the third act.
The Downside: Simply obvious story in every regard, acting is iffy, lacks tension or excitement.
On the Side: An alternate title for the film was Cabin Of the Dead. Yup.