Discourses on the horror of drug use are usually the province of religious leaders or politicians. But the writing-directing team of Tim and Trevor Ryan have now made it the purview of the horror film in “Welcome to Willits,” about a new drug that may make you privy to a secret alien invasion of earth.
This review of “Welcome to Willits” may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk. If you’re avoiding spoilers, try my news article about “Welcome to Willits” that is completely spoiler-free.
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“Welcome to Willits” has a lot of moving parts. We see the story from the angle of the family caught up in the manufacture (and use) of “Emerald Ice,” a designer methamphetamine unintentionally developed by Brock when he ran out of red phosphorous. But we also see the story from the vantage point of the campers, the young stoners who pick a very unlucky site for their camp. It says a lot about the talent of Tim Ryan that he wrote – and about that of Trevor Ryan that he directed – all these storylines without getting them muddled or confused. “Welcome to Willits” threw a lot of balls in the air, and these two juggled them all masterfully.
We get Brock’s story first. After he worked for a while with new substances in his methamphetamine formula, he discovered that extraterrestrials were encroaching on his farm. He quickly deduces it was the new chemical compound that causes him to be able to see and hear these creatures most others could not – maybe, he speculates, they even rejiggered his brain because they wanted to be understood. Veteran actor Bill Sage plays Brock with a dark, nitty-gritty believability that leads us far, far down the rabbit hole into this alien reality.
Of course, he has plenty of assistance. Actress Sabina Gadecki hides her stunning beauty as she shines in her role as Brock’s long-suffering meth-addicted wife, also living in this alien world. Television characters (including a “Fists of Justice” police officer played by no less a star than Dolph Lundgren) speak directly to Brock, sometimes in English, other times in extraterrestrial gibberish, but always a part of the alien conspiracy.
Adding to the believability of the alien conspiracy, a camper named Possum (he dropped the “O”) tells his new friends about his own experience meeting a “gray” in the woods. He, too, spouts the theory that some drugs attune human brains to the aliens’ wavelength. We want to believe him; actor Rory Culkin’s noteworthy exploration of Possum’s naiveté is carefully constructed to make the audience protective of him, and by extension, protective of his beliefs.
And, of course, there is all that evidence. Seeing is believing, and Special Effects Supervisor Vincent J. Guastini has created truly horrific alien creatures (when we see them, they’re mostly dead alien creatures) that add to the situation’s surreality.
The Ryan Brothers have a story to tell, and tell it they do – in a beautifully shot film full of strong performances and engaging dialogue. But when we find ourselves in the third act and everything starts flying downhill, when we are forced back into the horror of reality, we are left with something dark. Not exhilaration at the escape of “final girl” Courtney. Not catharsis at the relief from our fear and loathing. No, we are instead left with a deep sadness that our engagement was with a meth-induced psychotic break, and that the unreality was, in its own way, all too real.
While you’re waiting to see “Welcome to Willits,” watch the trailer here:
“Welcome to Willits” is now available through various video on demand services.
You know you want to see “Welcome to Willits” – the film in which (according to Amazon), “[p]otheads, aliens, and clueless teens collide.” Well, you can stream this “bloody and bonkers slasher freak-out” right now with Amazon Video (terms apply). Note: “Welcome to Willits” is available for streaming only at this time. No download or DVD version is available. – McC
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