George M Dondero
George M Dondero, Bethany Browning
Gettin' that money ain't always easy – and "War Of The Wills" proves that right off the start. After the death of his grandfather, young Will learns he must spend twenty-nine straight days in the house of the deceased - with his biological father, who barely even acknowledged his existence before the death in the family. The ol' deadbeat dad to the nth degree, he's now forced to spend time with his official offspring, and that's not something he's looking forward to. The stipulations cite that no one can be forced to leave the premises – they'd have to do that willingly of their own accord – but in the event that they succeed - and complete the twenty-nine days, they'd be wealthy beyond ever having to worry about money for the rest of their lives. How difficult could that be, right? Would you stay in a house with someone that's essentially a stranger to you for the promise of wealth you'd probably never be able to spend? Think of any game show you've probably watched - and the lengths people go to for a prize like ten grand! We're talking about a whole lot more than that in "War Of The Wills" – and the reality is, Will needs that money. It's not going to be easy, though – if anyone steps off the property, they'll forfeit their share of the inheritance, and clearly, no one wants to do that.
I'd readily admit, it's a strange setup for a plotline, no doubt – but the house itself seems like a nice place to stay, even if it's entirely cluttered, and the company within probably isn't the kind you'd ever want to keep. It is instantly clear to everyone watching - that our two main characters/new residents are certainly not going to get along, to say the least, but that's where the fun in this movie begins. The antics in the dynamics between this absent father and his son are a supreme asset to this movie, with the younger being more of the straight man to the humor that the older man supplies. Ultimately "War Of The Wills" isn't listed as a comedy, but it sure supplies a lot of it as we watch them try to share this space, giving this movie a quickly enticing and watchable vibe you wanna tune right into. For myself personally, I absolutely loved the way that the father's character is written, the dialogue he uses, his natural gift to be a complete prick, and how perfectly Steven David Martin plays him. He's conniving, crass, and pretty much straight-up rude when it comes right down to it, with the driest of dry senses of humor…and it all makes for brilliant dynamics in his relationship with his son in this film. Highlights like the beer bath were remarkable, in addition to all the creepy scenes where the old man watches Will from what seems like only feet away, and/or any time they're really forced to interact with each other, it's the way that both characters play off each other that provide the real strengths we see.
Significant wins are secured through the exterior shots outside, which all look fantastic with the personality of the house in the background, and moments like you'll see when Will's old man tells a story at the dinner table - where director George M. Dondero chooses to go for close up shots that give us viewers incredible access to the express features of our main characters faces. Dondero gives you a range of techniques that work well in tandem with the way this film unfolds, and the way we spiral through the days as they go by reminds us how much stranger this tale gets with every twenty-four hours that passes. It's all intentionally weird by design, and it's a joy to watch. George co-wrote the script with Bethany Browning, and it's got a devious brilliance to it from start to finish. They seem to trip a little bit on how absent Will's father has/hasn't been - in terms of how that's communicated to us as the story progresses, but it's just a minor detail that doesn't hamper the movie. There might have been more of an opportunity with the messages in the bottles scattered around the house as well - that could have been explored, but these are both just tiny observations and small things to consider. At the end of the day, the script was a solid vehicle to start with, and having both Steven David Martin and Kot Takahashi bring the words to life in this tale of death - and brought out the devious magic in this film. The ending you'll find is extremely satisfying, clever, and fantastically well-written.
For any good team to win the game, at some point, the defense needs to turn into offense, and I felt the way that "War Of The Wills" begins to contort into a more malevolent tale was both smart and effective. I still don't know if I felt like the tag of 'Horror' was really where a film like this one genuinely belongs, but that speaks more on behalf of the strengths of this script's versatility - and how much it possesses in the story overall. While it could have been very easy for two people to simply pick a corner in a house and stick to it for twenty-nine days to get the money they're entitled to, Dondero and Browning crafted a much more mischievous story - that was a whole lot of fun to witness. So much of what we experience rests squarely on the shoulders of the movie's main two actors, but that's exactly where it excels, thanks to the excellent work of both Martin and Takahashi, diving completely into their characters without any reservations or hesitation. I'm going with three and a half stars out of five for "War Of The Wills" – it's not at all what you'd expect, but it's also largely because of that you'll probably enjoy it more than you'd assume. It's a real twisted tale of family f**kery, and the darker it became only made it more delightful.