Studio: XLrator Media
Director: Nick Jongerius
Writer: Suzy Quid, Chris W. Mitchell
Producer: Daniel Koefoed, Nick Jongerius
Stars: Charlotte Beaumont, Bart Klever, Patrick Baladi, Ben Batt, Fiona Hampton, Tanroh Ishida, Adam Thomas Wright, Noah Taylor
Eight strangers are forced to confront their darkest sins when a supernatural being stalks them at a haunted Holland windmill.
I can only guess why “The Windmill Massacre” had the title’s last word removed for its U.S. release. Perhaps someone thought “Massacre” was beneath the film, evoking presumptions of a masked maniac B-movie they’d prefer not be a primary selling point. You wouldn’t think it a supernatural slasher by looking at cover art of a burning windmill, at any rate. In fact, without that apparently undesirable word, “The Windmill” actually sounds like Oscar bait from Merchant Ivory starring Jim Broadbent and Ellen Burstyn.
It’s not unjustifiable for marketing to hope to convince you there is more to the movie than a madman offing victims one at a time in the woods. It does include that. But there is more psychological substance going on underneath the slaughter to inch the film above its less charming peers in the “superpowered killer on the loose” category of DTV horror.
“The Windmill,” or “The Windmill Massacre” depending on where you are in the world when watching it, starts with Jennifer smashing a vase in her employer’s face. A wanted fugitive in her native Australia, Jennifer is on the lam as a nanny in Holland and the jig is up. Taking to the streets to evade police pursuit, Jennifer hides on a tour bus, hoping for an incognito trip out of town while her trail cools off.
Joining Jennifer is Nicholas, a drug-addicted doctor on an art therapy sabbatical. Former French model Ruby is moving her career to the opposite side of the camera, on assignment to photograph lush Dutch landscapes. Hungover soldier Jackson is still recovering from whatever happened last night in Amsterdam’s red light region. Takashi came all the way from Japan in tribute to his dead grandmother. Disappointed boy Curt hopes distracted dad Douglas can put his phone down long enough to look out the window. Abe drives the bus.
No one is as interested in touring the countryside’s windmills so much as they are in temporarily hiding from trouble in their pasts. Those secrets are about to catch up with everyone of course, because sins are the stock and trade of “The Miller.”
As tiny towns tend to in such cases, this one has a tall tale about a witchcraft-practicing miller who allegedly made a deal with the Devil. Villagers took up torches, burning both windmill and miller until only ash and bone remained. Except the Devil was so impressed by the man in life that he made him a guardian at Hell’s gate in death. The Miller now stalks the area in paranormal form. Anyone unrepentant when it comes to confronting evil acts must face his menace instead. And punishment comes by way of a personalized Hell even more horrible than the crimes they committed.
You might hear all that and sigh with disinterest. Maybe there’s not much unique about characterizations like a mouthy man shouting his way through a business call while his neglected son scowls sourly with slumped shoulders. Even the theme of internalized torment manifesting as physical torture wafts more than a whiff of “been there, done that” in the viewer’s direction. Still, the semi-serious story in the soul of “The Windmill” has a spirit of splattery fun and a sincere cinematic style to match.
Scenery catches the eye. Staging is up to snuff. A smattering of gruesome kills amps both blood and body count, including an entertaining ending sure to make you snicker for its sinister unexpectedness. Multicultural characters also add to the foreign flavor of the locale. Performances aren’t dropping dongs over the outfield wall, though they aren’t striking out at the plate either. Putting it in a peanut shell, “The Windmill” trots out more than a few tropes and predictable plot beats, yet it’s got gory guts and gusto where it counts.
“The Windmill” is no great revelation in genre entertainment and its villain The Miller won’t be joining Freddy, Jason, or Michael on the horror icon Mount Rushmore. It’s the kind of mid-tier movie whose seen-before conventions ensure socks stay on feet, though you’re unlikely to lament having spent 90 minutes with the movie when it is all said and done. Should “The Windmill” ever come up in conversation somewhere down the line, you’re at least likely to recall having seen it, possibly with an, “oh yeah, I kind of liked that one!”
Review Score: 65