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Kim (Patricia Clarkson), George (Jake Weber) and son Miles (Erik Per
Sullivan) are headed to the country for winter weekend relief from
Manhattan's bustling metropolis. On the way, they hit a buck and end up
stuck in the snow. A group of hunters who were tracking the buck come
along. Rather than helping, at least one of the hunters, Otis (John
Speredakos), is mad because the accident cracked the buck's antlers.
George, Kim and Miles are disturbed by Otis, and even worse, we quickly
learn that Otis has learned where they're staying. Meanwhile, Miles is
given a wendigo (a kind of Indian shape-shifting spirit/monster) token
by an Indian whom only he has seen. Is Otis a psycho out to get our
heroes? Are there wendigos in the woods?
I can see where Wendigo would have a number of problems appealing to viewers. It is a fairly low budget film, with technical limitations frequently showing through. Much of the film, and maybe all of it, is not really about the titular creature. And perhaps the fatal blow for many people, it has a very ambiguous ending, with a number of questions left unanswered. If you are discouraged by such endings, and you do not like films that have an aim of making you think about and discuss what everything meant, do yourself a favor and avoid Wendigo.
Personally, I like films like that. I usually prefer some ambiguity. The marketing of Wendigo is geared towards those who want a quick, scary creature flick, where they'd expect a grand battle with some supernatural monster who is defeated in the end, and everything is tied up neatly except for an opening for Wendigo 2: The Monster Returns, but that's not what this film is. Wendigo is much more thoughtful and poetic than the surface of such a creature flick would suggest to most people. Heck, writer/director Larry Fessenden even has a character, George, reciting Robert Frost. The Frost poem, and George's comment that Frost can evoke complex imagery and atmosphere out of seemingly simple things, is the key to the film.
One of the best things about the film is its complexity. In a way, there are four different films occurring at the same time, a thread from each character. In George's thread, he isn't exactly the happiest or most pleasant guy in the world, and he has some parenting problems. For him, the film is a realistic, horrific descent of his life going from bad to worse. In Patricia's thread, she's looking for rejuvenation of her life and family. She's a psychologist mostly denying the problems around her, hoping that they'll go away and get better. In Otis' thread, he's even more down on his luck than George, and George's arrival into his life symbolizes the final "crack" in his psychological armor. And in Miles' thread, which is probably the most important of the film, life is like a grand poem due to his youthful innocence and interpretation of the world. But this is a horror story, after all, albeit one with a glimmer of hope, and the events in the film give Miles' poetic interpretations a dark turn. Still, when everything is said and done, he seems to be the only one retaining his composure, due to the poetic outlook.
Even though the film is low budget, there are a lot of well-executed higher budget ambitions. Fessenden and director of photography Terry Stacey find some great shots in beautiful locations, and created some interesting slide show like montages (such as the cards, or the Indian wendigo images from the book). There are also interesting more traditional montages, such as Miles' nightmare. Wendigo is better shot and edited than many big budget films.
Other technical aspects are good for the budget. The "Wendigo" appearance at the end worked for me and was appropriately ambiguous. The lighting was usually good--there were a few times that dark scenes weren't as clear as they could have been, but it seemed to be more of a problem with the film stock (it could have been digital instead) or transfer. I thought the performances were good and far more realistic (if you value that) than the majority of films. Although I didn't really notice the score, it must have been okay, or I would have noticed it with a negative judgment.
Overall, Wendigo is a very good film that deserves to be watched without preconceptions, as long as you don't mind having to think about the movies you watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Larry Fessenden has been thrashed by most of the comments on this
forum. Well, the worst mistake, evidently, is the marketing of the
movie and the way the DVD might have been targeted. Obviously, this is
not a true horror movie, at least, not for people expecting anything
that will be gory and instantly satisfying.
"Wendigo" is basically a film that seems to be told from the mind of the young Miles. Things that are not readily understood by children tend to stay in their young minds and ultimately dominate their fears and the menacing world they can't comprehend. It is obvious that Kim, the mother, is a psychologist, but she has no clue to what is going on in the mind of her son. This is also a story of alienation. It's clear that the father, George, is a distant figure, perhaps a workaholic, who seems to be living in a different world.
Miles' fears reach a point of crisis during the week end in the country. That part of New York state, with its winter landscape, barren trees, play havoc on the little boy's imagination. It doesn't help that he encounters a strange figure in town, it creates even more doubts in his young mind. Ultimately, Miles' world comes crashing down on him and he can't do anything, even evoking the Wendigo spirit.
The film is well paced and acted. Patricia Clarkson is excellent, no matter where movie she is in. Jake Weber is perfect as the distant father who has an opportunity to come closer to a son he doesn't understand. Erik Per Sullivan, as Miles, conveys the inner turmoil within him. I thought he was extremely effective since the whole movie is Miles own take on what's going on around him. Finally, John Spredakos is perfect as the menacing Otis, a man who resents the world for the way he has turned out.
Instead of putting this movie down, future viewers should approach it with a open mind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you like horror movies with lots of blood and gore, tons of
jump-scare moments and unrelenting, escalating scenes of excruciating
death, then look elsewhere. If you like quiet, moody, thoughtful horror
which casts blood aside in favor of a genuine feeling of dread, then
Wendigo is for you.
Thoughtful, stressed out George, his psychoanalyst wife Kim and their young son Miles are heading out to the snowy countryside for a long weekend vacation away from the city. On the way up, George hits a stag with his car. The hunters who had been pursuing the deer are not thrilled when they find that George has ended their chase. In particular, deranged hunter Otis takes it personally. He follows the family to their vacation home, making sure they see him. He spies on George and Kim as they have sex. He fires through their windows with his rifle when they aren't home, letting them discover the ominous holes in their windows and walls when they return. When Kim takes Miles to the drugstore in town, Miles is attracted to a small sculpture in a display case, carved to resemble a man with the head of a stag. A Native American man tells Miles that this is the Wendigo, a spirit of the woods who has a taste for flesh and is always hungry. Miles takes the figure home with him, already haunted by the death of the deer the day before. That afternoon, when he and his father go sledding, George is shot and Miles pursued through the woods by a creature barely glimpsed...or is he just in shock, and imagining the whole thing? Hours later, George is rushed to the hospital and Miles, still clutching his statue, either faints, dreams or goes on a vision quest, in which the Wendigo returns. This time the angry, flesh eating god - part tree, part stag and part man - is hunting for Otis, who has finally gone over the edge.
Wendigo is a beautifully made film, almost totally silent but for the wind howling through the snow covered trees. Okay, so the monster itself is kind of fakey-looking, but it's a small flaw, more than made up for by the genuine feeling of tension and dread that creeps through every frame of the film, and the eerie backdrop of the silent, snowy countryside. The performances are great, particularly by Jake Weber as the moody and thoughtful George and Patricia Clarkson as his sweet but no-nonsense wife. They are a happy couple with their share of common problems, and it is the strength of their relationship and their love for each other that makes this film powerful. Watching this film is often like watching someone's home videos, so realistic are the performances.
This movie is not for everyone. A lot of people may find themselves totally bored, waiting for the hideous Lovecraftian Beast and bloody revenge that never come. We can never really be sure if the Wendigo even exists, seen as it is through the eyes of a sensitive child and also, later, through the eyes of a madman. This is more a psychological drama than a horror film, but it has more than enough creepy elements in it to satisfy fans of subtle horror.
This is one of those unique horror films that requires a much more
mature understanding of the word 'horror' in order for it to be
appreciated. The main thing people may fail to realize that this story
is told through the point of view a little boy and, as with most
younger children, he gets frightened easily. Mainly because he simply
doesn't understand things, like why his father is hardly ever there for
him. From watching the film you can see the husband arguing with his
wife the balance between work time and family time and you can easily
understand it, but the little boy doesn't. Also one can imagine the boy
being afraid of the woods, as it is established early on in the film,
that the family is from the city. Also, in the beginning as the family
is traveling to the house they hit a deer, then get held up, then they
argue with the locals about it, and the little boy surely didn't find
this introduction to the woods pleasant at all.
The "Wendigo" is ultimately what his young, innocent mind fabricates to explain all of this. There is the American Indian legend, but when looking at the scene where the young boy hears about about it, it is explained to him like bluntly and simplistically. Not because that's what the Wendigo actually is, but because that is how he understands it. When you look at the film from this point of view you can really begin to appreciate it. Obviously it was low-budget and shot cheaply, but the jumping montages, use of light, and general eeriness more than make up for it. And the final question the film asks is: is it all in your head, or is it really out there? 8/10
Rated R: profanity, violence, and a sex scene
I like horror movies a lot and have seen a great many of them. I rented
this movie with misgivings which were, alas, justified. For approximately
the first hour, very little happened. A couple & small child driving
the woods hit a deer then encounter some hunters, one of whom has a screw
loose. Words are exchanged and the family eventually gets unstuck from
ditch they ran into after hitting the deer. After that, for about an
not much happens.
A horror movie, above all, should not be boring, and this one is. All that happens occurs in the last 1/2 hour.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Important to know straight off -- this isn't a horror film or a
creature feature. This is a film about that two-headed coin: fear and
faith. It's about what our minds conjure up when we let our fears get
the better of us, and it's about what our minds conjure up when we hope
or pray. As many people have said, this film takes its time in bringing
on 'the monster'. Seemingly, that is so, but if you put away the usual
limited way of looking at horror movies, you will realize that the
'monster' appears fairly early on in the film. You can't see it; you
only feel its presence. If you were paying attention, you'll know that
the Wendigo isn't a monster, it's a spirit, and it can change its size
and shape at will. The catch is
. the will does not belong to the
Wendigo, it belongs to those who conjure the Wendigo. If the
imagination holds on to fear, the Wendigo will take the shape of that
fear, like a chimera. It may appear as drops of blood, or as a sudden
gust of snow, or as a giant deer with dragon breath (notice that the
reason the 'monster' image of the Wendigo looks rather cheesy is
because that is all a very young boy can muster in his mind. Chances
are, the little boy's parents haven't let him watch "Alien" yet!). If
it is hope you need to conjure, the Wendigo will go where you want it
to go and be what you want it to be (the father's description of how
"easily" he got to the house after he'd been shot sounds like he had a
little help there!). The Wendigo will also create havoc for those who
deserve a nasty fate. It cannot kill, but it can create enough fear in
a person to drive himself (in one case, literally) to his own demise.
In other words, what devours us isn't a boogie man with sharp teeth, it
is our fear that devours us.
There is a reason that this film spends most of its first hour in the presence of the family as it goes through everyday rituals and discussions. There is a tension that is penetrating that normalcy. We - and the characters at different times - are aware of the bullet holes in the walls, of the menacing presence of the creepy neighbor, and of the resonating grisly demise of that deer on the road. The father's feeling of helplessness gets triggered against his wife and son. The Wendigo takes the form of that aggression too. Before the father goes on the sled we see him playacting murdering his son. It is a game, and his son is never realistically threatened, but the father needed to do this in order to vent out his aggression (subconsciously of course). The film smartly tells its story from the viewpoint of the young boy. Smartly for one reason because it is the core of fear that really scares us, and that core began at a very young age. Remember the shadows in the corner of your room that seemed to swallow up the furniture with their darkness? Remember the overcoat that limply hung on the closet door looking like a hanging dead man? Or how about the breeze outside your house that whistled through the branches as they clawed at your window? They're all innocent and harmless things, yet we practically scared ourselves to death as kids by letting our imaginations (our little Wendigos) run wild. The film also is smart to tell its story through the little boy because he is going to learn something that he will take with him into adulthood. He will face death and embrace it and let it go (the scene in the hospital where his father is in surgery, and then after the father dies). It is a rite of passage. The little boy will now be able to fill his father's shoes (metaphorically, despite the literal image!).
This movie is the stuff of myths. It is what horror originally was in the movies. Today with terrorists and serial killers, it's easy to get lost in horror as 'reality'. Slasher movies have championed the literal with realistic special effects, offering little to feed our need for fantasy. If you look back into your childhood, you will find what you yourself planted there long ago. Your imagination. Your appreciation for this movie will depend on how much of that you have retained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Wendigo" falls squarely into the genre of what I like to call "The Killer Credits". That's where you're still waiting for something to happen when all of a sudden, BAM---there are the end credits! They hit you like a ten-ton runaway truck. In fact, the biggest moment of dread in "Wendigo" is the moment JUST before the end credits begin. There is a moment of blackness, and the musical cues tell us that something has just come to an end. In a split second, we realize, this is it...it's over...the credits are going to start and I'm still waiting for something to happen! No! STOP! Don't do this!! Then the first one slips across the screen, and you realize all is lost.
This is a real shame, because up until the final third of the film, "Wendigo" builds a delicious atmosphere of dread. I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. Something does, but it's not the something that we've been led to expect. In another movie, this might have been intriguing, even welcome. In this one, it just plain sucks. I am still reeling over this film and trying to place the exact moment where it went wrong.
The plot concerns a small family on a weekend getaway to a friend's cottage in the Catskills. Kim and George are typical fast-lane New York parents (she's an analyst, he's a photographer), and their small son, Miles, is a quiet kid who seems to have attended the same private school as Haley Joel Osment.
The family runs afoul of some "locals" when they hit a deer that runs across the road in front of their car. The deer is being stalked by three hunters, one with the ominous moniker of "Otis", so we know this is a bad thing. The hunters, especially Otis, are angry because the buck's antlers are chipped from the impact, therefore devaluing it. Words are exchanged and once the family gets to the cottage, they discover bullet holes in some of the windows.
While the family is foraging for groceries in town, a mysterious "Indian man" appears and gives Miles a weird animal statue, explaining to him the legend of the Wendigo--a vengeful spirit who consumes flesh and is part man, part animal, part tree...or whatever else happens to be around.
To tell more would be to spoil the movie's one big surprise, so I won't give away what really happens. What I will tell you, though, is that this is the kind of movie where weird, scary things happen, and they turn out to be hallucinations. For instance, Miles sees a man emerge from his closet and point a gun at him. No danger...hallucination. There are noises in the attic and the retractable stairs bow outward ominously, as if something up there wants out...hallucination. Miles has a vision while riding his sled...hallucination.
Then before we know what hit us, we're in the film's final stages. A non-supernatural threat is revealed, and the fearsome legend of the Wendigo turns out to be just a couple of vague appearances and the inability to inflict any kind of real harm on a human being. We do see it, and it looks like a giant deer walking on two legs. It's creepy...at least I thought it was...but that's all.
I think the movie's crucial misstep was the ghostly man's description of the Wendigo. We as the audience have been tricked into thinking the Wendigo is going to cut loose on these people, or at least on somebody in the film, and it never really happens. It's a letdown, and by the time the events of the ending unfold, we're tapping our feet nervously, waiting for some Wendigo action.
And then those killer credits come, signaling the death of the movie. It was a nice try, but after all the buildup, the conclusion of the film feels like a cheat. But that dramatic pause in the blackness, KNOWING those credits were coming but not wanting to accept the fact that the movie was really over? Terrifying.
The movie was pretty good. Entertaining to say the least. I just expected a little more wendigo like the title mentions. Story and acting are pretty good and entertaining. A lot of open ended items in story. This is a decent movie and a good for a rental. I was a little disappointed it wasn't more of a horror flick. The wendigo in legend is supposed to have an insatiable appetite that grows as it does. The more it eats the more it has to eat and so on. It also smells bad like that of rot, and decay and death. Like I said it is pretty good, I just expected the Wendigo to play more of a part in the movie like the title says.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this film to a lot of people, I
would recommend it to the avid horror fanatic who can appreciate a
slow-moving melodrama with dark, mystical undertones and whatnot.
However, just remember, this film starts off sloooow. And it pretty
much stays that way for the majority of the picture. The film is very
well thought out and thoroughly well-written. Larry Fessenden seems to
have executed his ideas perfectly in his eyes, and it seems like he
took his time get it right, and that's fine with me. There is a
psychological aspect to the whole thing, but I wouldn't really say it
is a psychological thriller or whatever you would call it, I would just
call it horror interspersed with drama.
The typical Bigfoot geek might walk away from this endeavor disappointed, this isn't your 70's style camp classic we have here. However, they might walk away feeling good about this one as well, like I did, if they can appreciate some solid filmmaking. It starts off with our broken family trying to spend some quality time together kind of thing for a good 45 minutes of the film a la 'The Shining', and won't really satisfy the horror fan until the second half of the film really. The film is sloooowww, like I said. Patricia Clarkson and Jake Weber's characters are both very well-written. John Speredakos plays his role naturally well, although I had never heard of him until this film. The dialogue is well written, and the most unimportant lines will end up meaningful in the end. The climax of the film is truly the most impressive, and by the end, 'Wendigo' manages to work up a bit of creepiness. The images are nice, lots of dead sticks and s**t. If you're looking for some ridiculously bloody slasher type flick, look elsewhere because that isn't what you'll be getting from this one. The legend of the 'Wendigo' isn't really discussed a whole lot, and someone seeking a ton of information of the folklore of this myth and other Indian myths should probably look elsewhere also, but if you can handle a well-made, unconventional, and original horror story then this could be for you. But be weary if you look to this hoping for it to be 'Urban Legend' or something.
I was really disappointed in this film. Usually I will give a film a fighting chance but this one sunk to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I found it tedious, boring and rather silly at times. The quick strobe-shots of the "Wendigo" almost had me laughing out loud. I am a great lover of indie films but this one has more of a sophomoric student film feel about it. Even the sound quality seemed student level. I'm not sure how this film (supposedly) garnered such praise from LA Weekly and the New York Times. It baffles me. The acting was second rate - even from Erik per Sullivan, Malcolm in the Middle's "Dewey" - who I usually find very funny and lively on the TV show. In this film it seemed like he slept-walked throughout the whole film. I'm not even sure that this would have been a better film with a different writer/director because this story seems to have been told before. The Shining meets Prophecy meets The Sixth Sense combo just did not work here. 2/10 stars.
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