James C. Clay // Film Critic
Good horror always has eye-catching aesthetics, and those visuals can come in many packages, from creature effects, to gore and even with depicting a particular setting. Director Emma Tammi’s feature narrative debut, THE WIND, shows promise for the filmmaker who set her horror film in an unlikely setting: the open prairie. It’s a rather ingenious setting that benefits from the sweeping vistas of the American frontier and stillness, especially when things start to get rather creepy. This is an imperfect film that, at times, plays a few too many tricks to keep its potency as far as the scares are concerned; however, Tammi is a filmmaker with a vision and a whole lot to say about gender politics.
During the 19th century, life was harsh for women. They were being ridiculed and looked down upon at every turn and being used only for cooking and child rearing. The place that they should feel safest is in their home, but not for Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard), who just went through a traumatic experience while in labor with her and her husband Isaac’s (Ashley Zuckerman) first child. On the exterior, she is persisting to move on and stay strong, because that’s what is expected, but truly she’s in agony.
The film uses a set of flashbacks to tell Lizzy’s story, as the couple welcome in Emma and Gideon ( Julia Goldani Telles and Dylan McKee) into their home. The introduction of two other people into their environment causes unforeseen friction in the couple’s dynamic. THE WIND plays with time, flashing back to how Lizzy came to be alone and paranoid inside her cabin that was once supposed to function as a loving home from her husband and child. However, the device to tell the story at times becomes a bit shaggy in its execution, but the atmosphere and performance by Gerard remain committed to being a slow burn that would play well as a midnight madness session on your couch.
It’s no secret that the Western genre is inherently male and consisting of machismo, but THE WIND shows that the definition of being “tough” can come in many different forms. Screenwriter Teresa Sutherland puts the audience in Lizzy’s shoes as she slowly goes mad from isolation and paranoia. Despite the scares taking on eerie spectral forms, the film feels grounded in something real and palpable that audiences can grasp onto and, at times, become emotional as a result. This is an auspicious debut from the filmmaking team of Tammi and Sutherland, who should team up again for more socially conscious scares in the future.
THE WIND has the goods to be an effective horror film that causes us to look inward. It doesn’t pass judgment against its characters. While Gerard’s Lizzy is being tortured on screen, it all serves a purpose for what Tammi is attempting to say. The best horror turns the mirror on ourselves. This outing has flashes of fright, but it falters a bit on the editing front. Either way, I can’t wait to see what Tammi has up her sleeve next.
THE WIND opens up in limited release today.