Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Emma Tammi
Writer: Teresa Sutherland
Producer: Christopher Alender, David Grove Churchill Viste
Stars: Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman, Miles Anderson, Dylan McTee
Strange experiences compel two women in isolated cabins to wonder if a paranormal presence haunts the surrounding prairie.
IFC Midnight distributes “The Wind,” although one might mistake it for an A24 release. Building their name with boutique productions like “The Witch” (review here), “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” (review here), and “It Comes at Night” (review here), A24 puts a distinct flavor of fright film on the tongue. Linking “The Wind” to their brand should imply an accurate impression of an arthouse period piece mixed with smoldering suspense certain to divide viewers into separate groups of enthralled appreciators or disinterested yawners.
Settling the Great Plains presented many challenges to families who farmed the western frontier in the 1880s. Plowing dry dirt to raise crops doomed to wither in winter. Fending off wild wolves drawn to the warmth of a homestead fire. Surviving in solitude with nearly nothing by way of diversions or other people to stave away cabin fever.
For Lizzy Macklin, keeping prairie madness out of the isolated home shared with her husband Isaac proves to be more difficult than protecting against tangible dangers. Left alone for days at a time when Isaac rides away for supplies, Lizzy’s sanity becomes stirred by a preacher’s pamphlet about demons, as well as ominous sounds seemingly whispering or knocking at her door.
The local population increases from two to four when Emma and Gideon Harper move into a cabin one mile away. While the two men toil to make the Harper land harvestable, Lizzy and Emma bond over different matters. Specifically, discussions of death and odd nighttime noises.
As Emma’s demeanor grows increasingly concerning, Lizzy realizes her new neighbor sees the same supernatural strangeness she previously experienced. Isaac and Gideon dismiss their wives as delusional. Lizzy initially assumes Emma may be disturbed too. Then her own haunting visions return, causing Lizzy to reconsider whether the plains might by plagued by a paranormal presence.
“The Wind” can be described by a series of single words leaned on repeatedly when reviewing films of its ilk. Were I writing properly, I’d incorporate these as adjectives in full sentences. Simply stating them one after another paints a portrait of the movie’s makeup in a more to-the-point manner. These are those terms earned by “The Wind” that inspire intrigue for some and rolled eyes for others: patient, atmospheric, quiet, moody, bleak, and everyone’s overused favorite, slow-burn. Mainstream minds might add “elevated,” which also conjures a specific style, albeit at the expense of offending genre purists who find the word loathsome when it precedes “horror.”
Writer Teresa Sutherland based her script for “The Wind” on Dorothy Scarborough’s same-named 1925 novel. Scarborough’s book was previously adapted into the 1928 silent film “The Wind” starring Lillian Gish, although supernatural streaks were replaced with romanticized western drama for broader appeal.
Sutherland and director Emma Tammi return “The Wind” to its spiritual roots as a tragic tale of a woman driven mad enough to commit murder. Their application of the source material plugs allegorical commentary about sexist gender dynamics, from men disbelieving women to sacrificing self-preservation for spousal duties, into the atypical framework of a psychological thriller with a 19th-century setting.
Impressively, Tammi and Sutherland never treat their audience condescendingly, instead taking intelligent engagement with their movie as a rule, not an exception. Though its fiction is not particularly complicated or convoluted, “The Wind” unfolds on two timelines through asynchronous flashbacks. Exposition often arrives without dialogue, supplanted by confidence that committed viewers can follow throughlines and plotlines without having hands held by conventional cinematic structure.
Certain reviews benefit from disclosures about the critic’s basic background so readers can calibrate individual expectations. Steeped deep in content that narrows it to niche interests, “The Wind” qualifies for such a caveat.
I’m a man at the onset of middle age who has no direct experience with parenting. That doesn’t make me an ideal conduit for picking up “The Wind’s” feminist themes examining postpartum depression. Although exact meanings may be open to ambiguity, the movie’s metaphors are mostly clear. However, I’m unable to relate to those messages personally, limiting my ability to engage on an empathically emotional level. For mindsets like mine, “The Wind” has a harder time hitting than for those who can tune to its tone.
Like the movie, except it does so in creative fashion, this review cops out by coming to a choose-your-own interpretation conclusion. Instead of digging introspectively to assess the film’s value as artistic entertainment, I’d rather suggest a final guideline for evaluating how the movie might mesh with one’s own tastes.
Concrete insight I can commit to would say that “The Wind” provides a palate cleanser as an unusual take on an alone in the wilderness or supernatural home invasion story. As to how satisfying its subtext is as a secondary or even primary piece of its peculiar allure, that comes down to how well your attention can match “The Wind’s” unhurried pace, and whether or not its suggestiveness stirs your psyche.
Review Score: 50