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The Wind (2018)

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Release Date: April 5

A supernatural thriller set in the Western frontier of the late 1800s, The Wind stars Caitlin Gerard (INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY) as a plains-woman driven mad by the harshness and isolation of... See full summary »

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Emma Tammi
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Cast

Credited cast:
Miles Anderson ... The Reverend
Caitlin Gerard ... Lizzy Macklin
Julia Goldani Telles ... Emma Harper
Dylan McTee ... Gideon Harper
Martin C Patterson ... Eli
Ashley Zukerman ... Isaac Macklin
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Storyline

A supernatural thriller set in the Western frontier of the late 1800s, The Wind stars Caitlin Gerard (INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY) as a plains-woman driven mad by the harshness and isolation of the untamed land. The film is directed by Emma Tammi, written by Teresa Sutherland and stars Gerard, Ashley Zukerman, and Julia Goldani Telles. It was produced by Soapbox Films and Divide/Conquer.

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Plot Keywords:

horror western | folk horror | See All (2) »

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It never stops.

Genres:

Horror | Western

Certificate:

R
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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 April 2019 (USA) See more »

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Runtime:

Color:

Color
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User Reviews

 
Very well made and genuinely creepy socio-political allegory, although the ambiguity and pacing won't be for everyone
13 March 2019 | by BertautSee all my reviews

The Wind is ostensibly a horror movie about a woman being terrorised by a demon on the American frontier. However, look a little deeper, and you'll find it may very well be a study of prairie madness. However, look even deeper, and it's really a metaphorical examination of the mindset of a less enlightened time, when women were very much second-class citizens who were expected to tend to the home and do little else. A fiercely feminist appropriation of that most masculine of genres - the western - it deals with traditionally gendered themes such as frontier domesticity and postpartum depression, remaining always within the genre's paradigms, even whilst challenging many of that genre's most fundamental tropes. Although it could be accused of wilfully ignoring the narrative of colonial violence and the fact that American pioneers were land thieves who displaced entire populations and destroyed indigenous cultures, the film is nevertheless an examination of the inherent dangers of attempting to cultivate a vast "uncivilised" land (both psychological and otherwise). Bleak and pared back, it's one of those films whose lack of budget actually works in its favour. A slow-burner that relies on shadows and sound effects, it's built on atmosphere, tone, and escalating psychological terror. With a wonderfully ambiguous dénouement, gorgeous cinematography, and chilling sound design, this is an impressive piece of work from first-time director Emma Tammi.

Adapted by Teresa Sutherland from Dorothy Scarborough's 1925 novel of the same name, The Wind is set somewhere on the frontier of New Mexico in the late nineteenth century. Structured achronologically, the story focuses on Lizzy Macklin (a very impressive Caitlin Gerard), a young wife who lives with her husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) in an isolated cabin on the prairie, from which Isaac is absent for weeks at a time, leaving Lizzy struggling with loneliness and the psychological effects of a failed pregnancy. The film intercuts the present, which sees Lizzy once again alone, with the past, revealing that another young couple - Gideon (Dylan McTee) and Emma Harper (Julia Goldani Telles) - purchased the only other cabin anywhere within walking distance. However, after Emma got pregnant, she became convinced that an evil entity was stalking her. Meanwhile, in the present, Lizzy begins to feel that that same entity is stalking her, a dark and unknowable force that seems to arise from the very wind sweeping across the prairie.

The Wind really hits the ground running with a brilliantly conceived and downright ballsy dialogue-free opening scene. With the as yet unintroduced Isaac and Gideon standing outside the Macklin cabin, Lizzy emerges from within, her white dress soaked in blood, carrying the lifeless body of a newborn baby. Shot by cinematographer Lyn Moncrief using an extremely cold colour palette of muted blues and whites, the red of the blood really pops, driving home the visceral (and all too real) horror of whatever has just happened. And that's even before the slam cut to one of the most disturbing and realistic cinematic corpses I've seen in a long time. The scene perfectly sets the tone, whilst also providing vital plot information and conveying how unforgiving the milieu can be - all without a single word of dialogue, with Tammi's control over the medium belying her lack of experience.

This scene occurs at roughly the mid-way point of the story, and it becomes apparent in the third scene that the film is using a non-linear narrative structure that requires viewers pay attention, with temporal jumps often indicated by nothing but bridging sounds, or occasionally subtle changes in wardrobe and/or hair. Although the last act does settle into a slightly more linear style, the film gets a lot of mileage out of the temporal discontinuity, forcing the audience to question the order and often significance of seemingly inconsequential events, skewering how we would receive the story were it told in sequence, and putting us on edge from the get-go. Much as the film relies on either/or ambiguity, so too does the narrative structure, with any given scene possibly vital, or possibly not. The fact that we are often uncertain as to exactly where we are in the timeline also mirrors Lizzy's own uncertainty regarding what's happening to Emma, and ultimately, what's happening to herself.

From an aesthetic point of view, although Tammi and Moncrief certainly show the beauty of the New Mexico landscape, they also refuse to romanticise it. This is a harsh world that will punish anyone who doesn't afford it suitable respect, even without the introduction of supernatural elements. As the film progresses, and we get deeper and deeper into Lizzy's psychosis/haunting, Moncrief shoots the initially vast-open plains in such a way as to become increasingly claustrophobic - there are more scenes at night when we are unable to see more than a couple of feet; there are fewer high-elevation shots, trapping the audience at ground level with Lizzy; the skies become darker, more foreboding, and more oppressive; there are more tightly-framed interior shots. This sets up a visual paradox similar to that of The Blair Witch Project (1999) - although the characters are out in the open, they are very much imprisoned by their environment.

Especially important in the film's atmosphere is Juan Campos's exceptional sound design, which elevates the evocation of dread several notches above what it would otherwise have been, as gunshots, slammed doors, and screams deafeningly pierce the silence without warning. Particularly of note is the sound of the wind itself, which is normal enough to be recognisable, but unusual enough to be unsettling; is that a voice drifting across the plains, or is it a trick of the senses? This works in tandem with Moncrief's excellent use of shadows to suggest a horror that's always just slightly off-camera (which, of course, is far more terrifying than anything could be shown). Indeed, apart from a single jump-scare (albeit, an effective one), the film's tone is conveyed exclusively through sound and shadow. Tammi is more concerned with mood and ambiguity than in revealing the "monster", and in this, the sound design and cinematography serve her extremely well.

Thematically, whilst it may not appear on the surface, The Wind actually has a lot to say. For starters, the sudden arrival of Gideon and Emma facilitates an examination of the nature of existence on the edge of civilisation, beyond simply using them to illustrate that not everyone is cut out for this lifestyle. Despite the isolation and loneliness, Lizzy seems hesitant to welcome new neighbours, lamenting to Isaac that they will have to get to know the new couple; "in the city, strangers stay strangers. Out here, we don't have that luck". Later on, when Emma asks if there's a church nearby, Lizzy tells her, "not enough folk around here yet". This lets us know just how sparsely populated and isolated we really are, with the absence of even organised religion, whilst also subtly suggesting this is a Godless place. And of course, there's the inherent ambiguity; is there literally a demon stalking Lizzy, or has the stress of isolation, the loss of her baby, and the events involving the Harveys simply pushed her over the edge into psychosis? Tammi (and actress Caitlin Gerard) handle this ambiguity beautifully, veering first in one direction and then in another, culminating in a captivating final shot that addresses all of our questions whilst answering none of them.

However, Tammi's main thematic preoccupation is a metaphorical examination of a pre-#MeToo era and its concomitant mindset. Horror has always been a fertile breeding-ground for socio-political probing, with Get Out (2017) as probably the best known recent example. In the case of The Wind, it's a sustained allegory for pre-#MeToo politics - a powerful monster targets a vulnerable woman, terrorising her with impunity, whilst the man in her life (and in the case of Emma, even other women) don't believe her claims, basically telling her she should be a good girl and stop causing such a fuss. It couldn't be any clearer if the demon's name was Harvey! The film very clearly shows that Lizzy suffers almost as much from the fact that Isaac doesn't believe her as she does from her conviction in the presence of the entity.

That the film is a feminised appropriation of the western mythos serves only to drive home the allegorical nature of the story. Lizzy is, on the surface, a stock character - "the wife", the one who looks after the home whilst the men are out doing manly things. So even though she has a relatively progressive marriage, the fact that she may be mentally ill is not something about which Isaac concerns himself; mental illness or not, her role is to maintain the home. This is one of the great ironies at the heart of the film; whether she is literally being haunted or is suffering a breakdown, it doesn't matter, because Isaac isn't going to do anything either way; he no more believes in the demon she claims is stalking her than he is concerned for her psychological well-being. Irrespective of the cause (haunting or breakdown), the dangers of which she warns are very real, and his failure to understand that fact adds to the socio-political framework that Tammi so carefully constructs. And the crucial point here is that Isaac isn't a bad husband; he's just very much of his era.

The Wind is an extremely impressive horror-western. But it's an even more impressive study of isolation and (possible) psychological disintegration. Genuinely creepy in places, Tammi and her crew have created an exceptionally well-crafted film rich in feminist connotations all the while remaining faithful to a genre not exactly known for its nuanced depictions of women.


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