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« April Foolish Predictions #2: Music and Sound Categories | Main | Open Thread & Random Buzz »
Thursday
Apr042019

Review: The Wind

by Chris Feil

Capturing the emotional and topographical emptiness of the American West, director Emma Tammi’s The Wind is a horror film that succeeds through its sparseness. The desert landscape that surrounds first settler Lizzy Macklin and her husband Isaac becomes a horrifying abyss of the unknown. As Lizzy stares out at her uninhabited surroundings, waiting patiently for more enterprising souls to arrive, that abyss stares right back into her.

What unfolds in this slim and mighty pickax of horror is a terrifying case of the plains. It sure proves psychologically claustrophobic looking out on the unending expanse of a home on the range, where yesterday and today, real and imagined all blur together in isolate malaise. Don't confuse the film's modesty for a lack of depth, for this creaky well runs deep.

As the film darts back and forth in time, we discover that Lizzy’s mounting paranoia has been long-brewing. Played by Caitlin Gerard, Lizzy is a young bride who has lost her faith in the process of starting a ranch in unoccupied territory with her husband. A new couple arrives just in sight, bringing with them an undercurrent of the sinister. Meanwhile, an evil presence comes out at night with increasing force. Once tragedy forces Lizzy to be truly left alone, trauma from her past comes into clearer focus as the malevolence around her takes hold.

Tammi’s first narrative feature proves to be an unpretentious genre exercise and an exciting one, delivering some reals scares from a simple concept infused with pathos. Together with screenwriter Teresa Sutherland, The Wind examines femininity in a setting that barely even allows for personhood, one where human connection is both distraction from and vessel for the forces working against us. Caitlin is a woman afflicted by her circumstance, and as the film’s vacillating structure reveals, has more painful history than we initially know. At its heart, The Wind is about the hell it was to be a woman in this implacably cruel atmosphere.

The film moves briskly and immersively, all while further peeling back the layers of Caitlin’s psychological interior. Perhaps the demons within and without are one and the same, but Tammi’s steady pacing delivers insight with deliberate measure. Part of what makes The Wind as satisfying as it is is its confident sturdiness matching its thematic insights. If its horror beats are familiar, its visual language is surprisingly intuitive to what is going on underneath Lizzy’s fraying resolve.

Despite the film’s unfussy but lived-in period detail, the performances around Gerard stray to the anachronistic. Gerard however is quite the compelling horror maven, delivering a performance that deepens both the film’s character study and its ability to terrify. With the demon largely hidden off-screen (and to great effect), she is given a showcase to frighten us in how she surprises.

In addition to delivering unlabored old school chills, The Wind announces Emma Tammi as a formidable new voice in genre filmmaking primed for even larger opportunities. It’s surely as scary as any of the more mainstream horror fare that will populate the multiplex this year, and perhaps even more unexpected in its insights.

Grade: B

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Reader Comments (6)

I had never heard of this, but it sounds like someone took 1928's The Wind and said, "Hey, modern audiences aren't going to be able to interpret the titular force of nature as representing this woman's anxiety and paranoia, so why don't we add a fucking demon?"

April 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChris

This sounds like a remake o Lilian Gish's famous classic w an updated twist.

I'm surprised tt Chris never once, mentioned it.

April 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Wow. Way to wipe out cinema history

April 5, 2019 | Unregistered Commentervigo

Wow. Way to wipe out cinema history

April 5, 2019 | Unregistered Commentervigo

Sounds like a cheap ass remake of the Lillian Gish movie, a complex masterpiece . This sounds like standard remake simplicity.

April 5, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

If the only thing this film accomplished is to direct audiences to check out Victor Sjöström’s 1928 masterpiece then maybe it was worth making? I really hope the filmmakers pay appropriately ginormous respect to the original source when promoting the new film.

April 6, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSally W

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