Review by James Linforf
First-time feature director Emma Tammi partnered with first-time feature writer Teresa Sutherland to create The Wind. Premiering at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, The Wind explores an unseen evil that haunts a remote stretch of the American frontier in the 19th century. The Wind stars Caitlin Gerard (Insidious: The Last Key), Julia Goldani Telles (Bunheads), Ashley Zuckerman (Succession), Dylan McTee (Roswell), and will be brought to theaters on April 5th, 2019 by IFC Midnight.
Lizzy (Gerard), a tough and practical frontierswoman, lives with her husband (Zukerman), isolated from civilization in a desolate wilderness where the wind never stops howling. When she is alone, she senses a sinister presence coming from the land itself. When a newlywed couple arrives on a nearby homestead, Lizzy’s dread eases up, and life falls into a new rhythm. The peace doesn’t last long, as the arrival of the new neighbors sets into motion a shocking chain of events.
The acting and cinematography in the film are outstanding. The two male leads make little impact, and the film is left in the hands of Gerard and Goldani, who give fabulous performances. The story is only told from Lizzy’s point of view, which is uncommon for horror films but exceedingly rare in the western genre. It was great to see a western from a character that isn’t a cowboy and to see the tasks that typically befell the women of that period. Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief did an excellent job capturing the beauty of the plains and adding credibility to the wind being an evil entity.
The opening scene is a striking example of visual storytelling. Two men standing outside of a simple cabin when the door opens and out steps a woman covered in blood holding a baby bundled in a piece of cloth. Tammi relies so much on her actors and the cinematography that the six-minute mark is reached before anyone speaks. It is easily the best sequence of the film. Shortly after that moment, the two men have to head into town, and the story takes both a turn and a twist.
The story unfolds in a non-chronological fashion, moving from the present to the past and then around within each of those timelines. More traditional horror films count on humor to break the tension that was built in previous scenes. Here, Tammi eases the sense of dread by moving to a more peaceful point in time, until the climax, when all that is left are the darkest parts of the movie.
I think that the film would have benefited from a linear storyline, even if it cost the drama of the opening scene. The extent of the time shifting adds confusion and steals from the impact of the climax. While I enjoyed The Wind overall, I can’t help but be overcome with a sense of what could have been. It is clear that everyone involved deserves to take a step up in the world of film making to work on larger projects that garner more exposure. In particular, I hope Tammi and Sutherland continue to create unique films helmed by their strong female characters.
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