FrightFest 2019: The Wind
Director: Emma Tammi Writer: Teresa Sutherland Starring: Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman and Dylan McTee
Lizzy and Isaac are experienced farmers used to being self-reliant in harsh terrain in the late 1800s Western frontier. So when Emma and Gideon settle nearby they try and help the couple obviously in over their heads. But Lizzy thinks the newcomers are strange and still coping with the recent loss of a child begins to wonder if the constant wind is a sign of an evil presence. Left for days on end as Isaac travels to replenish supplies, Lizzy could be suffering prairie madness because of the true horrors of loneliness and isolation. Initial Reactions C. The Wind highlights the harsh realities of women in the western genre, typically known for its masculinity. I must admit going into this I heard constant reference to The Witch from critics and other viewers. It’s a slow burn, period piece, set in unsettled American, with a God-fearing woman as the protagonist. I can see the similarities but to chalk it up as this year’s “The Witch” does a disservice to both films, as they examine a woman’s role in two different cultures. Though the atmosphere is front and center, I felt the presentation of Lizzy was the true standout aspect of the movie. As we are accustomed to, western genre’s females are usually (not always) placed as either prostitutes or pure hearted, damsels in distress, aiding in the man’s heroic journey. The character of Lizzy offers the image of what women truly had to face on the American frontier and the constant struggle between their femininity and the tough exterior needed to handle that lifestyle. It should be noted that unti
l the end, Lizzy shows the least emotion out of any of the characters and she’s the one having to handle most of the hard labor tasks, both elements that primarily are given to the man. The only major issue I had with the movie came from it taking the easy route in many instances. There are certain scenes that turn into haunting, jump-scares which felt like unnecessary moments used to remind the audience that this is a horror movie. Same with the character of Lizzy as a tough, German, frontiers woman, who falls into modern-day hysterics that feel slightly off from how she handles similar situations in another scene. Ultimately the movie is a great dread-inducing slow burn that doesn’t overstay its welcome. I found the jumping timeline to be easy to follow thanks to strong editing, and it actually helped the story then if we were to see the events in chronological order. J. I thought this film had some terrific moody atmosphere, a feeling of dread and despair and in case that wasn’t enough, it’s a period piece set in the 1800’s. What a shitty time to be alive. It might also be the first film I’ve seen about supernatural… land. Outside of the Micmac Indian burial ground nothing comes to mind as having used this particular device before. The chronology of the story was a bit tough to follow at times and I had to pay closer attention to the editing and where we were but it wasn’t problematic either. I thought there were some genuinely well-crafted scares and bits of terror as well. There’s quite a bit that’s left up to the imagination that worked well, including a bit with a feral wolf. You feel for the character of Lizzy too since she’s alone for the majority of the story, with the exceptions being some flashbacks and she can’t really do much to save herself other than shoot whatever comes as a threat. I guess that’s better than nothing though. Funny, thing too, I kept seeing bottles of liquor in cabins, or what I thought were bottles of liquor but no one was drinking so I might’ve been wrong. Given the horrific circumstances, I feel like it were me, some good 1800’s moonshine would do a damn fine job of taking some of the edge off. The acting and production values were well done and although things moved somewhat slowly at times, the brisk runtime was more than enough to make up for it. K. The film had a polish and atmosphere that was a cut above most of the others we’ve been reviewing. The filmmakers created a palpable sense of dread with very simple tricks and there were some genuine scares here. While I liked the austere style, mirroring the environment of the story, I would’ve liked to see them go a bit further. About halfway through they also began utilizing a flashback structure to fill out some backstory, which was fine, but then they skipped over certain events in the present and I found that to be a bit confusing as things went on.
The performances were strong throughout, particularly Caitlin Gerard who played the lead. The production design did a great job of recreating the old west on a low budget, the costumes and sets come across as authentic. The cinematography made great use of the landscape of New Mexico to create an idyllic and isolated feeling. The special effects were really well done, not relying too heavily on CGI. I think this was the 2nd best film of our Fright Fest series, just behind Come to Daddy.
Overall, it was a solid atmospheric piece, but I thought it would’ve been stronger if it either doubled down on the implicit mood or went for full on explicit gore. Response C. As what was once known as “arthouse horror” has trickled into the mainstream more, we’ve found (multiple in this festival alone) many movies attempting to base their scares off of atmospheric dread over jumpscares, which I think is wonderful. However, the negative side to this, like with jumpscare-horror on the other end of the spectrum, are movies that are void of heart and substance and sold purely on atmosphere. The Wind succeeds to the point that I found myself wishing it had more tonal elements to really let us get lost in the world. There were many points where they could’ve really dove deep into the harsh living in that region, era, and how Lizzy’s German nationality played into that toughness. To me, any of the outright scares felt forced to appeal to a general audience and took me out of the world, reminding me “oh right, this is a horror movie.” Any criticisms I have are mainly based around wanting to experience more of this world that Tammi created for us, which becomes more a compliment than anything. J. The Wind had a lot of what I personally enjoy on my horror film checklist: few characters with one lead, one location, psychological aspects, a feeling of constant dread and despair, loneliness and isolation. As I stated previously, the midwest in the 1800’s had to be a shitty time to be alive and adding a supernatural problem is only going to make it worse. The Wind plays on both the fictional difficulty and the real ones too and does a damn fine job of it. K. I agree with Craig to an extent, The Wind definitely succeeds most with the atmosphere it creates and is a bit light on substance but I enjoyed the horror sequences and didn’t feel they were tacked on to fit some arbitrary genre checklist. If anything I wanted more genuine horror to creep in and a little less arthouse. Bloodhound’s average score: 4 out of 5