Weirdness abounds in "Welcome to Willits," a self-conscious wannabe cult film that assembles a hodgepodge of its fledgling filmmakers' wildest notions. Adapting an earlier short into their debut feature, the brother filmmaking team of writer Tim Ryan and director Trevor Ryan exhibit imagination, but haven't developed the skills to mold their many ideas into a cohesive picture.
"Welcome to Willits" is framed as a backwoods slasher movie — but one that spends as much time with the murderer as his victims. Bill Sage plays Brock, a rural drug dealer (and user) who believes his pot farm's been infiltrated by aliens. When a handful of young folks set up camp on Brock's land, some become collateral damage to the man's violent paranoia.
The Ryan brothers bounce from story line to story line, spending time with Brock's meth-addicted wife (Sabina Gadecki), his practical-minded niece (Anastasia Baranova), a couple of interloping campers (Chris Zylka and Rory Culkin), and even the star of Brock's favorite TV show (Dolph Lundgren). The movie's horror elements take a back seat to woozy, philosophical conversations, answering important questions like, "Do dead aliens get damned to a different hell?"
"Welcome to Willits" has a loopy energy that in short spurts can be pretty amusing. More often than not though, the film is clever to a fault, packing in too many characters and gimmicks. Now that they've gotten this muddle out of their systems, the clearly talented Ryans should definitely try making another movie — but with a sharper focus.
‘Welcome to Willits’
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood