European folklore, and in particular British nursery rhymes, seem to often involve some sort of nasty creature intent scaring the ever-loving shit out of children. The Disney versions of these traditional tales are a far cry from the boggarts and barghests that haunt the woods of the old country. Wither is an homage to these traditional tales of folklore and fear.
Written and directed by Ethan Evans and written and produced by Jess Bartlett, Wither stars the talents of Lamissah La-Shontae as Willow, Philippa Howard as Mrs Maple, and Anthony Niescior as Barnaby. The film is entirely self-funded and has already won ‘Best Horror Film’ at the Cardiff International Film Festival. It is a folk horror short film about a young girl who finds herself at the mercy of a mythological farmer after her traditional offering is spoiled by a classmate.
Strictly speaking, the film achieves what it sets out to do; create a creepy, sinister flick based on more traditional storytelling planted firmly in the tales of old. All the necessary elements are there and all of the boxes are checked—it’s a carbon copy short film that is well shot, structured, acted and edited. The song is absolutely the best part and creates most of the atmosphere and explains the plot. It is as melodic as it is haunting. Everything is as it should be. I’d even go so far as to say that the film is nigh perfect.
That said, I do have two gripes. Firstly, I was never scared. Wither certainly gets creepy, but never to the level that I was edge-of-my-seat into it. Not all horror films necessarily need to be nail-biters, but this style of short film usually (in my experience) either has a bit more existential dread or jump scare shots. Now, I dislike the latter as much as you do but Wither needed a little more BOO! to get the blood pumping. Secondly, the ending was a little lacklustre. The makeup and such was more really well made Halloween costume and not gore and entrail offerings to the dark gods. I totally understand that the film was self-funded and had child actors that you really don’t want to scar for life, but a splashing or two of corn syrup here or there would not have hurt.
Wither is a goood short that almost made it into my personal collection of greats. It was just too safe for my personal taste. Perhaps watching so many short films has heightened my expectations or perhaps my standards are always on the up and up. Either way, it is a very professional, very passionate, and very traditional flick that is a safe bet for festival laurels. I enjoyed it thoroughly and so will you. Have a look for Wither at your upcoming festivals and definitely give it a chance. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.