TIFF Review: ‘The Wind’ is a solid western-horror hybrid

The Wind
 
 

Editor’s Note: Vanyaland’s Nick Johnston is north of the border all week long for the Toronto International Film Festival; click here for our continued coverage from the fest and also check out our official preview.

If you’re a sucker for period-piece horror, you’ll probably be well in the bag for Emma Tammi’s slow-burn western fright-fest The Wind, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a remake of the 1928 silent film of the same name. The point of comparison most often tossed around at the festival was Robert Eggers’ The Witch, but this isn’t nearly as meme-worthy or as confrontational as that film was.

It’s about how the daily routine of Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard), a pioneer woman, having moved out to the middle of nowhere with her husband, is interrupted when another couple moves in well across the plain. The two are seemingly always at odds and are desperately unprepared for the potential horrors of the frontier, and things only get worse when the wife (Julia Goldani Telles) begins speaking of a demonic presence that haunts them at night. Needless to say, things get quite bad for Lizzy from there.

Tammi does well crafting the film’s mood, and that feeling is a bit more essential to the experience of The Wind than the specifics of the plot or any of the performances. That’s not a dig at any of the capable actors (especially Gerard, whose unraveling as the film progresses onward is communicated efficiently in emotional terms) or at screenwriter Teresa Sutherland’s work, though her ending could have, perhaps, been just a little bit clearer for my tastes.

It’s that Tammi knows what to emphasize — the loneliness and harrowing nature of a frontier existence — and goes about it smartly, forgoing the easy scare for a perpetual unease that lasts well after the film has ended. That also isn’t to say that the film isn’t scary, as there are a number of jump scares so well-timed that they made plenty of people in my theater scream. If that’s any indication, The Wind is a solid debut for Tammi, and I believe that it’s one that may be a harbinger of great things to come.

Follow Nick Johnston on Twitter @onlysaysficus. Featured image courtesy of TIFF.