The Welder (2021) Review
Eliza (Camila Rodríguez, Huracán, Night Shift) runs through the rain as voices yell in the background. It’s disorienting, like some kind of a nightmare, and that’s what it is, a nightmare. Eliza is sleepwalking and it’s only the timely arrival of her boyfriend Roe (Roe Dunkley, Avengers: Endgame, Burn Notice) that stops her from walking into a lake.
Remembering the fun he had at his grandparents’ ranch Roe books them a weekend at one he saw online hoping it’ll help bring her stress levels down. Of course, we know that’s not going to happen.
David Liz (Majesty Girls, The Soiree) who directed and co-wrote The Welder with Manuel Delgadillo (Heterotopia, Burden) loads the first act up with ominous scenes, Eliza’s nightmare, shots of a man chopping up raw meat and leaving it in the woods, missing persons posters on the way to the farm, etc. And the farm’s owner William (Vincent De Paul, Waking Up Dead, Rottentail), and handyman Don (Crist Moward, From Dawn to Dusk, IronSoldier) are extremely creepy.
It’s obvious that something sinister is going on, but The Welder has more on its mind than just scares. Eliza and Roe are a mixed-race couple, and we learn via flashback that William’s now-deceased wife was African American. After her death he devoted himself to ending racial hate, that’s a noble cause but what can one man in the middle of nowhere do? The film’s website refers to it as “Frankenstein” meets “Get Out”, does that give you any ideas?
The problem is, as you can imagine, this makes for a very mixed message. One that could as easily be taken as a condemnation of anti-racist activity and mixed marriages. Because in The Welder those that consider racism wrong are crazy, and mixing races creates literal monsters. It’s clear Liz and Delgadillo simply didn’t think it all the way through when they were writing the script, but they really ended up way off target.
Looking at it strictly as a horror film, The Welder comes off slightly better. Despite the heavy-handed foreshadowing, Liz does build up a fair amount of tension by the time the couple gets settled in at the ranch. Unfortunately, it starts to unravel soon after as it starts to become clear that Dr. Godwin is indeed playing God. There’s nothing wrong with updating the Frankenstein story, Rob Grant’s Alive is a good example. But the methods used here are ridiculous, and more suited to a bad spoof than a serious film.
There also isn’t a lot in the way of effects despite the plot, mostly some bloody stumps which are practical and convincing looking. It’s too bad the budget didn’t allow for more given the potential of a madman wielding a welding torch. It would at least have helped justify its use in the film.
From a technical standpoint, The Welder is well done. Liz has several credits as a cinematographer and it shows here with several drone shots emphasizing the ranch’s remoteness and some creepy camerawork in the forest and the old house. The sound design by James Hall (Blonde. Purple, An Eye for an Eye) is good and helps add a macabre note to several scenes.
But they can’t overcome The Welder’s shortfalls as a genre film and its horribly muddled message. A predictable ending and mid-credit scene only add to the film’s problems, making it clear why it’s sat around since its debut at Raindance in 2021. The Welder aspires to be classed with Get Out, but it gets a nope from us.