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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
"Wendigo" (2001) is a story about a couple from New York City who take a weekend trip to the Catskills in the middle of winter. A local hunter takes a disliking to the husband (Jake Weber) while the couple's son becomes increasingly concerned about their environment and a Native American legend -- the Wendigo, an angry spirit that can manifest as man, beast, tree or wind.
"Wendigo" is not a conventional creature feature so if you're looking for a typical monster flick look elsewhere. The movie has a slow build-up filled with mundane drama, which some have criticized. Yet this is reminiscent of films like "The Birds," where the main characters and a sense of realism are well established before things get going.
"Wendigo" is a mood piece more than anything else. The mysteriousness of the lonely Catskill woods is evoked along with a sense of wonder and fear of the unknown. It's a vibe more akin to "The Mothman Prophecies" than "Ogre."
Like "The Mothman Prophecies" "Wendigo" is somehow a pleasure just to watch (as long as you're not psyched-up for a monster-slasher flick). There's a quiet style and expertise to the filmmaking that smacks of professionalism.
Patricia Clarkson is effective as the wife/mother and little Erik Per Sullivan is excellent as the son, Miles.
Interestingly, none of the special effects were done with CGI, but rather cinematic techniques, costumes, make-up and creative editing. It works for me.
The film leaves the viewer somewhat scratching his/her head with its ambiguity. What conjured up the Wendigo? What's its purpose? How exactly does it "devour" people with its unquenchable hunger? Etc. Obviously if you like everything spelled out for you and don't like banging your head this is not the film for you.
The film was shot in the Catskills, NY, and runs 91 minutes.
GRADE: B+ or A-
POSSIBLE EXPLANATION (***SPOILER*** Don't read further if you haven't seen the film)
Children are more sensitive to the spiritual realm because they haven't yet built up years of intellectual blockades along with social conditioning. It's clear that Miles senses malevolent creatures or spirits around him, which is why he and his mother check the closet and underneath the bed before he goes to sleep.
The Wendigo is a spirit and can only manifest in the physical realm through an agent who releases the spirit through BELIEF. The Wendigo souvenir plays a role in the Wendigo's manifestation because it was created by someone who BELIEVED in the Wendigo; it's in essence an article of worship and, in a sense, an idol. Hence, the Wendigo is attracted to the figure, which can inspire BELIEF in certain individuals, like Miles.
The ghostly Native American in the souvenir shop is obviously the Wendigo in human form. He's attracted to Miles because he senses belief and therefore guides the boy to the Wendigo figure and explains the "legend." He says, "No one believes in spirits anymore," but after sharing the story of the Wendigo he asks the boy if he believes, to which Miles responds, "I guess so." This wasn't much, but it was all the Wendigo needed. The boy gets his mother to purchase the statue and thus the Wendigo is released into the physical realm to devour human prey.
The Wendigo is an evil spirit and therefore a liar. In Indian form he claims that such spirits are not "bad" just "angry." In other words, he makes excuses for his malevolent actions. Our prisons are full of people who do the same thing.
Once released, the Wendigo immediately inspires Otis to shoot the husband and, later, kill the cop. The Wendigo then goes after the very person he used, Otis, which shows that evil spirits will readily use you if you're willing and then lose you. Why didn't the Wendigo provoke someone else? Because evil spirits can only utilize those who are ALREADY given over to the dark side of their natures. The film shows that Otis was already an arrogant SOB and potential psycho. He doesn't go "over the edge" until AFTER the Wendigo is released.
If you're wondering why the Wendigo required belief to manifest in the physical realm, just think about it: It's the same way with God. The bible says that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Faith is the key that activates God on our behalf, answers prayer, heals and moves mountains. Why would we think it's any different with spirit beings who aren't benign? The difference is that when they are released through belief they cause havoc and destruction rather than blessing.
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