Don’t you hate it when the meth you’re smoking causes you to hallucinate an alien attack on your pot farm, and you start killing promiscuous teenagers in the surrounding woods because you think they’re part of the invasion? I know I do, and so does the main antagonist in WELCOME TO WILLITS, a super low budget flick directed and written by brothers Trevor and Tim Ryan.
It’s an odd piece, ostensibly following the tried and true slasher guidelines, but we spend more time with the slasher himself than the “teenagers” we should be sympathising with. Bill Sage is Brock, the murderous meth head on a mission to save the planet from aliens and aside from looking vaguely like a young Stacey Keach, he manages to create a truly loathsome character.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by a few familiar faces, the most surprising of which is Dolph Lundgren, who appears to have spent an afternoon filming a few scenes, and was probably paid in sandwiches. I’m guessing he owed someone a favor. I know, he’s not usually the most discerning when it comes to choosing roles, but that’s the only way I can explain his presence here. He appears in a TV-show-inside-the-movie - a cop drama parody which seems like a planned joke that someone forgot to pay off with a punchline.
We also get a Culkin who wanders into the film looking like a homeless person, and that guy you might recognize from HBO’s "The Leftovers", if anyone at all had watched that show. Everyone is unfortunately saddled with long scenes of dialogue - possibly improvised - that meander and add little to the overall plot.
The characters never have any meaningful interaction, and a couple of them spend the entire runtime wandering aimlessly through the woods. As the flick rolled on, I began to suspect the whole thing was improvised, and if that’s the case, well done! It’s impressive if this was all created on the fly.
The technical elements are similarly rudimentary. The cinematography - when it’s not flat and static - is close-up and disorienting, particularly in the alien abduction dream sequences, and although that’s obviously the point, it’s frustrating. Every second scene is accompanied by the prerequisite ambient hum of cheap sound recording.
If I have anything truly positive to say, it’s that the alien prosthetics are pretty cool. However, the kills are unspectacular, with most of them happening offscreen. A missed opportunity. But as the credits rolled, things began to make sense. Up there in large white text… a name that explained everything:
The less said about that guy, the better.
So, is WELCOME TO WILLITS a horror film? Young people are killed in gruesome ways, but there’s nothing particularly scary about it. Is it a comedy? I don’t think so. While there are scenes that feel like they’re meant to be funny, for the most part the proceedings are aggressively unfunny. Is it a surreal drug flick? I guess you could make an argument that it is, but it doesn’t have anything of value to say on the topic, rendering it flaccid. So I have to ask, “What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willits?”
WELCOME TO WILLITS will be arriving in select theaters, VOD, and via digital platforms in the U.S. on September 22, 2017.