Alright, ladies and gentlemen, back again today with another horror piece that may have slipped under the radar a bit – The Wind.
Since it came quietly to VOD, I thought I should place a trailer for you all (found below) so that you can get a sense of what the story is about.
This is the definition of a Gothic tale: a young woman in an isolated location in stalked/terrorized by something (ghost, demon, killer) and must fight for her survival.
Typically, Gothics make for solid limited-actor, limited-location pieces, but since it is 2019 (at the time of this review), you need to update the Gothic to be less damsel-in-distress and more a tale of survival and self-reliance.
Not to say throw the formula out completely, just that the Gothic has been done many times and so you will need a fresh take (and an interesting protagonist) in order to make your script shine.
In this piece, for example, we have our heroine (Lizzy) stranded on a homestead in the 1800s as supernatural forces (or perhaps madness) attempt to destroy her. The location is unique and the way in which they lean into the potential madness of isolation and desperation (ala the Donner Party) is also interesting and sets it apart.
In fact, the filmmakers even go so far as to have the character of Emma have a collection of classic Gothic stories, some that they read throughout – like Frankenstein and The Mysteries of Udolpho.
So, what did I think of The Wind?
It was beautifully shot – The cinematography and images of rolling fields and empty desert are all beautiful and the piece looks amazing.
Slow-burn – From the silent opening of a woman exiting a home covered in blood and carrying a dead baby, this film takes its time. I do want to mention this because I feel like many slow-burn pieces lose their way or have trouble keeping attention throughout.
The film mixes flashbacks with Lizzy and Issac’s new neighbors with the Lizzy’s current situation – left alone by her husband and their neighbor (the only people for miles and miles) when the neighbor’s wife dies suddenly and unexpectedly from an apparent suicide.
It is entirely a stylistic choice, but I feel as if it would have been even creepier had we not had the interruptions of flashbacks and had instead stayed with Lizzy as things continue to get worse and worse for her alone in the middle of nowhere.
The Score – There is no dialogue for 6 minutes at the beginning of this film and, in many ways, this is a silent film about isolation and the descent into madness, so an effective score is necessary. I found it well-done and suited to the film without being overbearing or intruding on the story being told.
The acting – Particularly by the lead (Caitlin Gerard) is great. She has expressive features which is important for this film as there is little dialogue and she carries a majority of the film on her shoulders.
The isolation – The 1800’s must have been a terrible time to live in, but this film does a good job of expressing just how dangerous and terrifying being alone in the middle of nowhere with very limited resources could be.
As Seth MacFarlane says in A Million Ways to Die in the West says:
“The American frontier in 1882 is a terrible place and time. There are a million ways to die in the west…”
On that note, I like this exchange that happens after Lizzy and Issac invite Emma and her husband to dinner:
Emma: Is there a church nearby?
Lizzy: Not enough people around here yet.
Emma: Ah. How many?
Lizzy: Now? Four.
It is subtle, but creepy – they are literally in the middle of nowhere and no help is coming should they get in trouble.
Creepy Moments – There are a few effective creepy moments here. One that is similar to The Witch (2015) when a previously dead goat comes back to life and spooks Lizzy. Unfortunately, they use this trick several times (the dead character/creature appearing again suddenly) and it kind of wears itself out.
I did like the scene with Emma playing the name game with Lizzy and telling her that she going to her name her child after Lizzy’s husband because… well, you know why, Lizzy. This of course hints that the child is Isaac’s (Lizzy’s husband) and, though it may not be true, adds to the psychological torment that our lead is facing.
This also illustrates that Emma, who has been losing her mind for sometime at this point, has really gone off the deep end and things are going to get very bad for the other three people living out there very quickly.
This brings up an interesting moral dilemma because Lizzy says that they should either go home or tie Emma to the bed because she is going to get them all killed. Unfortunately, this is probably true and, as Lizzie states, “It was hard enough when it was just the two of us. Now we’re expected to look after them as well?”
There is also a pretty creepy moment later on in the story when Lizzy sees a light come on in their neighbor’s home, even though we know that her neighbors are either dead or on the road.
Similar to It Comes At Night – I don’t know how many of you have seen It Comes At Night, but that is what this film strongly reminded me of. I felt that ICAN was much more build-up and little payoff and that this film did a much better job of keeping my attention and telling a complete, psychological-horror story. That said, if you did (or did not) enjoy ICAN, that will probably be a good indication of how much you will enjoy this piece.
Would have made for an interesting Twilight Zone Episode – This is not really a comment on the story or quality, but the idea of a long woman haunted on the prairie (or possibly losing her mind) would have made for an interesting short-form episode.
What Needed Work
The Wind – The wind doesn’t actually come into play here. Now, this is probably a good thing so that we didn’t have chase scenes like we did in The Happening, but I still feel like the film could have been titled something a bit more appropriate for the story. Similar to It Comes At Night, there is something terrible happening off-screen, but we never know exactly what it is or why.
Not Really A Horror – Though this is billed as a horror, it is not really. There are some jump-scare moments and a couple of creepy things, but it is more of a psychological examination of a woman facing the frontier alone and trying to remain sane.
The Third Act – I like that it didn’t take shortcuts and was true to the inevitable bleakness of the situation, but I kept waiting for some sort of reveal – I’m not talking about an M. Night “They were dead the whole time.” twist, but some final gut punch that either re-contextualizes everything we have seen before or leaves us thinking about the film long after it has ended. No spoilers here, but I think you probably know how this one is going to end, even from the trailer and that is unfortunate, because I think there was a lot to like in this film, but I was pretty meh on the ending.
I would always recommend supporting indie films and filmmakers, however, I do have to say that this is probably only for die-hard slow-burn horror fans or those who are writing a limited-location thriller/horror. I would say RENT IT when it comes to Netflix or Amazon and look at what you liked and what you would have done differently and then apply it to your own work to make that stronger.
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