Welcome to Willits (2016)

A group of friends goes camping near Willits, CA. There, the locals grow very potent weed and smoke it as well while they are attacked and abducted by aliens on the regular.

The film is written by Tim Ryan and directed by Trevor Ryan who team up here to give the viewer a completely insane experience in which it’s hard to know what is true and what is a hallucination. The film plays with this constantly with only a few characters being sober and all there. The film also mixes in a tv show the locals watch called Fist of Justice which stars Dolph Lundgren. This addition sounds ridiculous at first, but it works in the film’s context. The way it goes back and forth between the two groups of people and the tv show creates a chaotic feeling for the story that works great with its insanity. The way characters created here are ridiculous but feel like real people in their environment and against one another.

These characters are played by a talented cast that takes the insanity and brings it up to 11 while also working together in a way that adds to the non-sense that somehow makes sense. Rory Culkin plays a fantastic stoner here while Thomas Dekker plays his exasperated friend as a good counter-balance. The locals are played by Bill Sage as Brock, Anastasia Baranova as Courtney, and Sabina Gadecki as Peggy. They play a sort of family unit with a whole slew of issues. The way they relate to each other works well within the confines of this story. A surprising performance is that of Karrueche Tran as Besh, she doesn’t get a whole lot of lines or screen time, but she makes the most of it.

The film here looks great, even in its majority nighttime shots. The cinematography by Che Broadnax makes the most of the woods setting and creates a good look for the film even in the darker scenes, something many films with such settings and limitations do not manage this well. The cinematography shows that Broadnax knows how to work with dark scenes and confined, yet outdoors settings.

The film, as many horror film with such a subject, boasts a bunch of special effects which are clearly, in most cases at least, practical effect. The team behind these effects did a fantastic, kick-ass job, creating creatures that look amazing on screen and not like the same old, same old while still feeling familiar. Things about these creatures are reminiscent of aliens in film of the past mixed with a touch of Pumpkinhead. They look great and work so well within the story. The other effects including blood and gore also look good except for one sequence, but given the scope of the effects here, it’s easily forgivable.

Welcome to Willits is a fun, crazy, batshit film about drugs, things that go bump in the night, and whether they are real or not. It’s effective and keeps the viewer thoroughly entertained throughout. It’s got funny bits and gross bits, it’s got just about everything and the kitchen sink, even Dolph Lundgren indirectly in a way that totally works.