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George is a high-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency. Needing some time away from the city, Jake, his wife Kim, and their son Miles head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them. George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road; after George stops to inspect the damage, he's confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time. An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken. When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that it's next door to Otis' property, and they soon find that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken over the cottage. Since, when they stopped at a store en route to the cabin, a shopkeeper told Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a beast from ... Written by
A flawed attempt of making an intelligent horror movie...
Larry Fessenden is an independent director who has focused his career in making horror movies with philosophical and existential subtexts. Despite his sparse production (four movies in 16 years), his original approach to the genre and the quality of his work has given him recognition and praise in festivals and in the independent scene. "Wendigo", the third of his horror-themed films is probably the weakest of them, but it has many of the unique characteristics of Fessenden's film-making that make it stand out among the genre.
A young family of three heads to upstate New York hoping to spend a time relaxing hoping to relieve from the stress from the city. However, they find problems as they find an angry local named Otis (John Speredakos) who is not very happy with having them as neighbors. His strong and intimidating presence serves as catalyst for the family's inner conflicts and fears, specially those of little Miles (Erik Per Sullivan), whose feelings of loneliness are increased due to the fear Otis creates in him. As he learns about the legend of the Wendigo, Miles will learn to face the harsh world that is out there.
Very loosely based on the Anishinaabe legend of the Wendigo, the movie is a haunting drama mixed with horror that perfectly combines a lucid visual style with a clever storyline. Told from Miles' point of view, the film is genuinely creepy and the snowy landscapes together with the feeling of isolation Miles feels increase the haunting atmosphere of the film. Basing its scares on mood and atmosphere makes the film a rare species among modern horror movies, and the excellent camera-work makes the film look a lot better than other low-budget independent films.
Fessenden visual approach may seem a bit "style over substance" at first, but he takes a good time in developing the characters and their relationships. In fact, the relationships between them are probably the most important thing in "Wendigo". From Miles' distant relationship with his parents George (Jake Webber) and Kim (Patricia Clarkson) to both parents' struggle to keep a balance between job and family's responsibilities. The impact Otis has in the family and the Wendigo's legend work perfectly as plot devices to make the film move.
The lead cast is superb, with Erik Per Sullivan being an excellent actor despite his young age. Jake Webber and Patricia Clarkson show their talent and the three of them have very good chemistry as a family. The rest of the cast is average, but their work is fine considering that the center of the film are our three main characters. The Wendigo spirit, an important part of the plot, is very well recreated and despite its cheap low-budget look, Fessenden camera-work make it work very good.
Sadly, the movie is not perfect and despite having a very strong start, the movie loses steam and by the end it falls short to the expectations built. Larry Fessenden offers a creative and actually haunting film that is severely hurt by the lack of a competent conclusion, a shame if one considers that the characters are very well developed and the plot has lots of potential. The fact that the use of atmosphere, visuals and audio is superb makes the weak ending the more disappointing. It feels as if Fessenden had not cared about how to finish the tale as the movie feels incomplete.
"Wendigo" has been hailed as both a masterpiece and as a failure. While the movie has enough good things to be called a great film, it's disappointing pay-off and lack of conclusion are a big stain. In this case the best thing to do is to watch and judge for yourself, just don't expect a typical horror film. 6/10
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