Review: “The Wind” is indie horror at its best

The latest addition to IFC Midnight’s horror catalogue is The Wind, a crossover between western and horror that I have been meaning to watch for a while, although it came out on VOD only on April 5. In fact, I contacted the production company multiple time to get an early screening of The Wind… alas, I had to rent as I got no replies from them.

This is one of those movies where you’d better go in knowing as little as possible about the plot, hence why this review will be spoiler-free up to my final grade. After that, you’ll find a spoiler discussion which I advise not to read unless you’ve already seen the film.

Written by Teresa Sutherland and directed by Emma Tammi. The Wind can be described as a slow-burning psychological thriller. That will have you guessing what’s going on beneath the surface. In fact, the story is told through a nonlinear narrative that jumps back and forth between various moments in the past and the present.

This very storytelling shows how solid and well-written the script is:

There’s no lazy and distracting exposition to be found (kind of). Which means The Wind demands the viewer’s full attention and commitment. Something most horror movies completely ignore or simply aren’t able to pull off.

Don’t worry, though, because the purposeful editing helps immensely to understand what’s going on and. If the viewer plays close attention, makes the different timelines come together with no plot holes or inconsistencies whatsoever. The solid script is, in fact, backed up by Tammi’s impressive directing: The editing implements the narrative, the simple cinematography makes the audience fully experience everything. That’s in the frame, so that no details go missing.

The Wind also nails the look and atmosphere of a modern western film.

The grainy and washed out colours transport you back in the days. While the camera-work resembles those long establishing shots that spaghetti westerns were so fond of. Yet, costumes and locations are fantastic. As they never let you out of the immersive experience: you never feel like you’re watching a film set.

This movie also uses a slightly changed version of the aspect ratio utilised in western movies. Which subconsciously helps creating that western feel. Finally, the music is very fitting, albeit quite similar to the score in Brimstone. My favourite horror film from 2016 (check it out!).

Although The Wind isn’t scary in any traditional sense. It manages to be quite atmospheric and to climatically build tension throughout the 86-minute-long runtime. The fantastic opening scene and the third act. In particular, are extremely tense despite the lack of brutal violence or cheap techniques to have to viewer jump.

The overall film also works due to solid performances, which are good enough for the most part.

Caitlin Gerard (Elisabeth) and Julia Goldani Telles (Emma) are particularly dedicated to their role. Which makes their performance all the more effective and believable.

However, the actor who played Gideon has a very distracting line delivery: whether it’s the directing or just his performance. He was the weakest character in this contained movie.

Speaking of flaws, The Wind has a couple of pacing issues when it transits from one act to the other. Where the movie gets to a halt.

Finally, there are two rather obvious continuity errors: one occurs towards the end, therefore I’m not going to explain it.

The other one happens early on, at the 11.28-minute time mark: Elisabeth is attacked by wolves and it’s daytime, the sun is up (it might be around midday). To get away from them, she takes shelter in her cabin and shoots them through the door. Immediately she peeps through the hole in the door caused by the bullet and it’s clearly dusk.

Aside from these minor issues/mistakes, The Wind is truly a great watch for fans of atmospheric psychological horror movies and slow-burners. Bear in mind that, at the moment I’m writing this review. Most critics seem to appreciate the movie whereas fans are split. If what you read sounds good, though, you shouldn’t miss The Wind. I’ll see you (or not) after my final grade for the spoiler-filled paragraphs.

There doesn’t seem to be that much wind blowing in “The Wind,” but somehow it’s an apt title. This impressively directed feminist horror-Western is about what can’t be seen. But only felt — be it on the vast, lonely Western plains, or inside a terrified woman’s mind.

Watching this, you might recall the 1928 silent classic “The Wind,” in which Lillian Gish is a similarly stranded pioneer woman (that movie was all about wind). Turns out writer Teresa Sutherland and director Emma Tammi adapted the same source material. Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel of the same name, but their film is far different.

It begins with an elegant composition straight out of John Ford’s “The Searchers,” then the horror:

Lizzie (Caitlin Gerard) emerges from a dark cabin covered in blood and bearing a stillborn baby. The baby is not hers, but that of Emma (Julia Goldani Telles), who has killed herself. Her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), and Emma’s grief-stricken husband, Gideon (Dylan McTee), bury the bodies.

How did we get here? “The Wind” backpedals to when Emma and Gideon first plant stakes nearby, disrupting Lizzie and Isaac’s years of solitude. At first, it is a welcome intrusion — finally, someone to talk to. But Emma seems a little weird, and she becomes obsessed with what she thinks are supernatural beings haunting the frontier.

The story is simple, but “The Wind” becomes a tour de force of Tammi’s carefully composed images and a stunning central performance by Gerard, who can carry a movie simply with her face as the dread mounts. The cinematography (Lyn Moncrief) and spare but effective production design (Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar) also are notable.

This doesn’t have the budget or the marketing push of “Pet Sematary,” the other horror film out this week, but “The Wind” has a boldness and imagination that transcends such limitations. This is indie horror at its best.

INFO:

Rating: R (for violence/disturbing images, and some sexuality)
Genre: Horror
Directed By: Emma Tammi
Stars: Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman
Written By: Teresa Sutherland
In Theaters: Apr 5, 2019 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Apr 5, 2019
Runtime: 86 minutes
Studio: IFC Midnight

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR THE WIND

David Fear
If you’re thinking “Repulsion by John Ford,” you’re more on the right track than you could possibly know.

Noel Murray
“The Wind” is ultimately more allegorical than literal. It’s not about history, or pioneer life, or bloodthirsty ghosts. It’s about a loneliness so overwhelming that it becomes terrifying.

Chris Nashawaty
The Wind flirts with some interesting themes about postpartum depression, female jealousy, hallucinatory paranoia, and hellfire possession, all goosed by a feminist twist in what’s typically a masculine genre.

Jeannette Catsoulis
This pioneer chiller shines a gender-specific spotlight on the ways isolation and hardship can ravage a woman’s mind.

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