IFC Midnight has occasionally produced some pretty terrific horror films, but Welcome to Willits is not one of them. When a group of kids sets up camp in the small town of Willits and goes in search of the town's hot springs, they find instead a huge marijuana farm. What first seems like paradise quickly turns to hell when the farm's crazy owner, Brock, becomes convinced he's under an alien attack. High on crystal meth and armed with a rifle (never a good combination), Brock takes action to protect himself, his niece Courtney, his girlfriend Peg, and his crops. Ot's just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it isn't without its merits.
The good stuff: Bill Sage (American Psycho, Boy Wonder) is an awesome, highly underrated actor who creates a terrific lunatic in Brock. Between flashbacks of being abducted -which may or may not be drug-induced- and hallucinating that each of the kids is an alien, Brock is highly motivated to not only kill, but to utterly dismember his intruders. Like most grade B horror, the violence is too over-the-top to take seriously, but Sage sells it well.
Equally impressive are the special effects. The "aliens" are accomplished via practical, surprisingly state-of-the-art costumes, masks, and props which add an unexpected layer of realism to the film - something which wouldn't exist had they used CGI! I also enjoyed the intercutting between the kids as they are and the kids as they appear through Brock's twisted imagination.
The bad stuff: How can I praise these things yet still give the film a measly four out of ten stars? The script. Despite the original setup, the dialogue becomes stale and the story never takes off. The tone vacillates between silly and serious instead of committing to one or the other. This is important because dramedy rarely works with horror. Worst of all are the endless plot holes: If Brock and Peg are regular meth users, why is he suddenly seeing aliens now? If his hallucinations are being caused by this particular batch of meth (which is implied at one point), why is he having flashbacks too? Was Brock really abducted or not? Why do fax NBC the kids look like aliens but Peg and Courtney look like themselves? Why does Peg seem to see the aliens too yet never has flashbacks of her own? (I've considered that Peg's co-dependence on Brock has made her susceptible to his psychosis much like in William Friedkin's Bug, but thoughts like that run far too deep for a simple movie like this.)
Honestly, Welcome to Willits had a lot of potential that was ultimately squandered on a mediocre script. The acting and effects were solid, but not enough to save the film. Good writing is crucial in any genre and too many filmmakers -especially in the horror field- fail to realize that. Horror comedies in particular are notoriously hard to pull off which is why successes like Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil are so rare and special. Both managed to be hilarious as well as clever and heartfelt. If that's what you want, this film doesn't measure up. On the other hand, if you just want to kick back, pop some popcorn and enjoy a goofy, gory horror flick, you could definitely do worse.
Review by eyesmalloy from the Internet Movie Database.