The Wind (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): A windy and creepy western horror film

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“The Wind” is a windy and creepy mix of two different genres. Set in a typical western movie background, the movie attempts a disturbing supernatural horror drama mainly revolving around its increasingly unstable heroine, and it often captivates us with its palpable mood and tension on the screen as the circumstance becomes more insidious and unnerving for its heroine. Although its overall achievement is rather modest on the whole, the movie did its job better than I expected at first, and it is one of more interesting genre pieces of this year in my inconsequential opinion.

At the beginning, the movie slowly lets us gather a gloomy situation surrounding Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard), a young married woman living alone with her husband Isaac (Ashley Zuckerman) in some remote wilderness area of the 19th century American frontier. During the opening scene, we see her quite devastated by the sudden death of their only neighbor’s wife, and she soon finds herself left alone after her husband leaves along with their only neighbor, who understandably decides to move to somewhere else as grieving over his wife’s death. While not bothered much by her husband’s temporary absence during next several days, she tries to keep going on as usual, but, as reflected by a series of flashback scenes, her mind cannot help but haunted by the memories of that dead woman, and she comes to feel agitated as more acutely aware of her isolated environment than before.

And then weird things begin to happen around her. At one point, she encounters a couple of aggressive wolves while doing her routine chores outside, and that incident is followed by a number of other weird and disturbing things. As the wind keeps howling outside as usual, she becomes a lot more nervous than before, and it seems quite possible to her that there is something sinister lurking somewhere in the wilderness.

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In the meantime, we get to know more about her relationship with that dead woman. When Emma (Goldani Telles) and her husband came to settle at a spot not so far from their place, Lizzy and Isaac were glad to have a neighbor around them, and the mood was cordial when they subsequently invited Emma and her husband to their place, but Lizzy sensed something odd about Emma right from when they met each other for the first time. As she and Emma come to spend more time together, it looks like they will be friendlier to each other than before, but there later comes a brief but crucial moment when Lizzy notices Emma being a little too nice to Isaac.

Because the movie mostly sticks to Lizzy’s rather unreliable viewpoint, we come to question more what is shown to us via her viewpoint. Did Isaac actually have an affair with Emma? Are those strange happenings around Lizzy just mere reflections of her disturbed state of mind? Or, is there really some malevolent force preying on her outside, as suggested by a certain small guidebook whose contents Emma zealously memorized?

Steadily maintaining the ambiguity surrounding Lizzy’s situation, the movie gradually dials up the level of tension, and we accordingly get a number of spooky moments as things become more confusing and terrifying for her. When a stranger suddenly comes later in the story, that figure in question surely looks suspicious to say the least, and I like how the movie deftly toys with our suspicion before eventually pulling out an intense moment of shock and surprise as expected.

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In addition, the movie is commendable in technical aspects thanks to the skillful direction of director Emma Tammi. Although this is her first feature film, it is apparent that she is a good filmmaker who knows how to interest and engage us, and her crew members did a fine job of establishing authentic period atmosphere well on the screen. As cinematographer Lyn Moncrief often impresses us with strikingly bleak landscape shots, we are frequently unnerved by the constant sound of wind on the soundtrack, and the resulting sense of dread is further amplified by the nervous score by Ben Lovett.

As the center of the movie, Caitlin Gerard is thoroughly convincing in her character’s gradual descent into terror and madness. Even as we come to watch her character from the distance, Gerard firmly holds our attention without any misstep, and her terrific performance is one of the main reasons why the inevitable finale of the movie works with chilling dramatic effects. In case of a few other performers surrounding her, Goldani Telles holds her own place well during her several scenes with Gerard, and Ashley Zuckerman is also effective as doing more than what is required by his rather thankless role.

In conclusion, “The Wind” is fairly successful in terms of mood, storytelling, and performance. Besides being a solid case of genre hybrid, the movie is also interesting to watch for its distinctive female perspective, and Tammi and her writer Teresa Sutherland deserve to be praised for their achievement. Considering that how much this little movie refreshed me not long after I endured those bloated CGI spectacles of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), it is a shame that the movie did not get much attention when it was released in US early in this month, and I think you should give a chance to this overlooked piece of work someday.

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