One would be forgiven if they said they’d never heard of or caught the slightest whiff of The Wind. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September 2018, before being distributed Stateside by IFC Midnight in April 2019.
A supernatural horror film, The Wind is a film I had an immediate expectation of, given my relationship with films I considered of a similar ilk. This came across as an “arthouse horror” or horror caviar, as I’ve heard A24 refer to some titles like The Witch and Hereditary. Neither monikers do I find necessarily apt, but what it often boils down to is a slow-burn storytelling, built on ambiguity and suspense. It’s an “ilk,” to reuse the word, I’m always leery to venture into.
Although I appreciated The Witch when I saw it in theaters (although I do think I land somewhere smackdab in the middle of the “masterpiece” or “boring, pretentious slog” spectrum) and I thoroughly enjoyed Hereditary, like everything else in horror, the subgenre can have a lot of misses.
I decided to watch The Wind as a challenge to myself to be open-minded, and because I have always wanted to see Caitlin Gerard with a role she could really sink her teeth into. The film is directed by Emma Tammi in her directorial debut, and was written by Teresa Sutherland. With Censor and Lucky being, perhaps, the best horror films I saw released last year (both on Shudder), I’m having a real hot streak on female written / directed films. I’m starting to think these “women people” might actually be more than scantily clad for slasher villains, who’da thunk?
The Wind has a nice aesthetic. Although it is deemed a “Western” by some outlets, I find that a little misleading – it’s a period piece, for certain, however. Set during the American frontier, Lizzy Macklin and her husband Isaac begin a settlement in an unpopulated area of New Mexico. When I say unpopulated, I mean middle of nowhere, fields and nothingness whichever way you look. Later, another couple named Emma and Gideon move into an abandoned cabin nearby and become acquainted with them.
The film is told out of chronological order, and although I think they do right the ship by the end, I couldn’t help but feel it was a rougher way to go about things than what a more conventional route may have been.
Lizzy and Isaac befriend Emma and Gideon, – because, well, who else would they befriend – and the conflicts unfold hereafter. Basically, a monstrous demon appears to be wreaking havoc at night, that appears intent on killing each of them.
Of course, this is not a creature feature in the least. This is a film about a few things, like, for instance, religion and all the wacky, crazy paranoia it can create, and mental illness (prairie madness was very common with settlers), which can obviously create its own paranoia.
As you might surmise, it is a very familiar concept and the premise itself is easy to predict – either there is a creature or there isn’t, and we’ve seen enough instances of this trope to know it could go either way.
Emma Tammi is steady in her directing, and the story, while done often, I feel has enough nuances and eccentricities to it that I feel it saves itself from feeling cliched. Likewise, its pacing, although does reflect the subgenre its in, kept me more invested, offering enough visuals and ideas to keep it from feeling like all sizzle, no steak. There were a couple surrealist elements I would’ve liked to have been subtler, less evil demon-y / hokey, maybe more restrained or subdued. Caitlin Gerard carries the film, offering a worn, stripped-down performance, and is exactly what I wanted out of her in that regard.
It isn’t a film that reinvents the wheel or offers one spellbinding moment in-particular that I believe you should go out of your way for or outright warrants a recommendation, but it is a nice chilly horror film and a feather in the cap of each person involved.