By MATTHEW C DUPÉE
Starring Camila Rodríguez, Vincent De Paul, and Roe Dunkley
Directed by David Liz
Written by David Liz and Manuel Delgadillo
There are many types of welding defects, a flaw that directly comprises the intended weldment by weakening the joint or causing a complete failure. One such defect, known as burn-through, occurs when too much heat is applied to the weld and results in a hole being melted through the metal and ruins the joint. THE WELDER directed by David Liz falls victim to its own burn-through, from a preposterous premise to its flawed execution, the film curdles its noble intention of taking on social ills like racism and mental health issues.
A mixed-race couple comprised of a troubled former Army medic named Eliza (Camila Rodríguez) and her charming boyfriend Roe (Roe Dunkley) decides to de-stress by enjoying a long weekend away at a desolate but active farm near the Florida Everglades. Eliza, who struggles with PTSD caused by a past traumatic sexual assault at the hands of a white soldier while in the Army, struggles with sleep and trust issues. Roe, committed to Eliza’s well-being, smothers the mood by doting upon her every move. The pair arrive at a rundown farmhouse owned by a less-than-creepy former surgeon named William Godwin (Vincent De Paul), who – like any overbearing Air B&B host – quickly wears out his welcome by pestering the couple and generally acting odd. Godwin broods about, clearly angry and depressed following the death of his wife Sarah, and inexplicably leaves hunks of bloody flesh scattered throughout the property, digs random holes in the swamp, and stiffly rants lamenting the evils of racial divides, police brutality, and the ill-treatment suffered by immigrants.
Eliza discovers a mysterious welding mask-wearing creep skulking around but scares him away before Roe or Godwin arrive. Clearly, something’s amiss at Godwin’s remote ranch, but before Eliza and Roe can leave, the pair are captured by Godwin and his troupe of ranchhands, including the welding mask-wearing creep. Godwin reveals himself as a “mad scientist” of sorts, seeking to end the social blight of racial hate by conducting an unexplained process of “welding” various body parts from Black, Latina, and White victims onto a single body. In fact, the welding mask creep turns out to be Godwin’s “puritan” brother Duke (Anthony Vazquez), allegedly responsible for killing Godwin’s wife, a Black woman, years earlier. Roe is taken into surgery where he is hacked apart with a blow torch but Eliza returns with a pistol and all hell breaks loose after she mortally wounds Godwin and bonds with Duke, who apologizes for hurting and killing Sarah, revealing he really loved Sarah and therefore destroying any logic about being a hate-filled puritan racist. Eliza takes it upon herself to “weld” parts of Godwin off and presumably saves Roe’s life. I guess the Army trains its medics how to “weld” appendages onto various bodies these days. Before the film ends, Eliza calls her mother, feels better about her recovery, and decides to lure and murder her ride-share driver (Jorge Picó) presumably to harvest his appendages.
THE WELDER falters on nearly every front. Whatever social commentary it attempts to offer about racism and mental health issues is derailed by De Paul’s wooden portrayal of a vengeful mad scientist conducting nonsensical “welding” experiments on his victims. Billed as a mash-up between Jordan Peele’s GET OUT (2017) and the classic mad scientist tale from FRANKENSTEIN (1931), THE WELDER never realizes its full potential and instead collapses under the weight of its flimsy construction. The film’s brightest spot comes from the chemistry between Rodríguez and Dunkley, a believable cinematic couple who do their best with the otherwise uninspiring material. Halfway through the film, Roe laments about the rotten conditions of the isolated farm and insists they should have gone to the beach for their vacation. He’s right. Skip this one and head to the beach instead.
THE WELDER is available to stream on digital and VOD as of February 24, 2023.
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