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THE WIND ****

Directed by Emma Tammi. Starring Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman.
Horror, USA, 86 mins, Cert 15.

Reviewed in London at the Arrow Video FrightFest.

Out now. Released by FrightFest Presents.

 

The Western genre sometimes makes for an exciting mate when paired up with horror. Emma Tammi's directorial debut The Wind quickly proves itself as one of the more successful examples of this hybridised genre by looking at the more dangerous aspects of what was then still a vast, open and mysterious country with danger, of both the psychological and supernatural varieties, lurking past the fenceposts as the wind whistles through the gaps in the wooden door.

 

Opening with the striking image of a woman covered in blood staggering through a doorway carrying a new-born child while two nervous men wait outside, The Wind economically, in both script and visual terms, spins its tale with high confidence from first-time director Emma Tammi and screenwriter Teresa Sutherland. Flashing back and forth in time to before and after this bloody opening, we learn of the events that brought about such a disturbing situation.

 

Caitlin Gerard takes centre stage in a sparse cast as Lizzy, a dutiful wife to her husband Isaac, Ashley Zukerman, on a lonely farm, miles from civilisation on the plains in the 1800s. When another young couple move in to the next cabin a few miles away the sense of isolation is soon combined with one of intense unease as another presence soon begins to prey upon the mental wellbeing of first the young and pregnant Emma, Julia Goldani Telles, then Lizzy herself when she later finds herself the lone solitary figure left to hold the fort by herself. Whether the presence is real or imagined is played close to the chest, and it is to the director and writers' skills that the question still lingers long in the mind after the film has drawn to its enigmatic close.

 

Making the most of a meagre budget of under $15000, Tammi makes the most of her spectacular location. Wide, open and flat as far as the eye can see danger can come from any direction be it wolves or nocturnal demons which travellers are warned of by seemingly helpful travelling preachers. This gothic sense of terror plays out well, and its literary influences are paid attention to here when we see that Lizzy's small library contains Frankenstein and more significantly the Mysteries of Udolpho. These two seminal volumes of horror are significant influences thematically not only as female-authored texts but of the similar themes they have in common with the film itself. One direct quote from the latter mentioned volume may seem to give away the film's secrets, but Tammi and Sutherland cleverly maintain a tightrope act of neither confirming nor denying the mental states of the characters who may or may not know the truth.

 

This is not an opaque film, however. Such mystery is one of the movies main points, and it is one that is exceptionally well explored. The sense of drama and tension remains high throughout and more than earns its quietly devastating payoff. Special mention must also be made to Ben Lovett's scratchy and juddering score, which is used to significant effect alongside the excellent and evocative sound design. The Wind grips the viewer's attention throughout its slow-burn narrative from beginning to end and stands proud in not only its sub-genre but the horror genre itself.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

 

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