The Wind, 2019.
Directed by Emma Tammi.
Starring Caitlin Gerard, Ashley Zukerman, Julia Goldani Telles, Dylan McTee, Martin C Patterson, and Miles Anderson.
A supernatural thriller set in the Western frontier of the late 1800s, The Wind stars Caitlin Gerard (INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY) as a plains-woman driven mad by the harshness and isolation of the untamed land.
It wouldn’t be fair to The Wind to ignore that it has the unfortunate circumstance of being a nonlinear feature where its flaws utilizing that narrative structure are more exposed, considering this critic has also recently watched a film that masters the technique to near perfection. Nevertheless, the inexperienced but capable directing/writing team of Emma Tammi and Teresa Sutherland begin the film with back-to-back chilling wordless scenes of death. Not only are they among the most terrifying moments in the film, but they also needlessly frontload the experience with the best it’s got, and for what? Well, just to unjustifiably play around with the chronology of the movie.
Thankfully, The Wind has an eerie atmosphere going for it that plays off of the psychological damages the traditional housewife role can cause under extreme circumstances, such as isolation during frontier life while husband goes away on business for days at a time, with the only company being one other couple that lives about a football field away. As a result, Lizzy (played by Caitlin Gerard who was recently seen in Insidious: The Last Key, making the most here of a horror role grounded in drama and possible mental instability) becomes under the impression that the titular wind is some kind of demonic entity (think the malevolent force in The Evil Dead which feels like a heavy inspiration). To be fair, it’s not just gender politics and the distinctly feminist approach to the film that calls for these ideas to be planted inside Lizzy’s mind, as she is also morning the loss of her stillborn child. She also has interactions with the pregnant wife of the nearby couple, who is also under the impression that evil is residing out in some of these gorgeously captured fields.
Also, the more I tell you about this movie, the more you just have to accept that I am telling you things in as complete a random order as the film itself. That’s not to say the movie is confusing or difficult to decipher, as that’s far from the case, just that it’s a creative idea that doesn’t pan out for the story being told. All sense of pacing is thrown off until maybe the final 20 minutes where things settle for a straightforward climax, although one that starts to make use of conventional paranormal scare techniques rather than the psychological horror early on. It’s also worth noting that due to the solid performances across the board, whether the terror is neurological or violent, The Wind mostly works. Shortcomings aside, it is a successful exercise in creepy mood that once again, has a smart and progressive twist on the Western genre.
Intriguingly, The Wind probably functions better as timely social commentary than as an actual horror film. Take nothing away from the strong acting or the standout makeup work (there is a shot of a deceased body caused by a shotgun blast splitting apart the skull that is so ghastly and lifelike it’s not out of the question to forget you are watching an independent work), but time and time again Lizzy tells her handsome and hard-working husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) about the danger she senses in her presence. And as you can probably expect, he dismisses it as the crazy ramblings of a lonely woman taking after the kooky neighbor. The Wind makes the case to give women the benefit of the doubt, no matter the situation, even if it is possessive demonic frontier wind. It’s also in those moments where we begin to gather an emotional connection to the film beyond simply wanting Lizzy to survive; we want to see Isaac get his comeuppance as from our perspective, something is clearly not right. Of course, there is always the potential outcome of Lizzy genuinely going insane, which only invites more investment into the film. Regardless, it’s about empathizing with and believing women.
Ambition is certainly not lost on The Wind from a thematic standpoint, but in all of that conceptualizing, interesting characters are lost while at times the scares sometimes feel generic and cheap. All things considered, the movie could have gone either way, but the performances are enough to make the good outweigh the bad. Emma Tammi deserves to make more films; she might yet carry all the tools to leave us sleeping with the lights on, but she has big ideas blending together feminism and horror. This time around, that’s enough.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com