Filmmakers have only sparingly mashed horror and old-school western together. However, in those few cases where the genres have been fused, the results have been surprisingly good. For instance, S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk and relatively unknown 2004 effort, Dead Birds, are underrated gems. Today, director Emma Tammi’s horror-western, The Wind, debuted on multiple streaming platforms. Critics seemed reasonably impressed and the trailer promises chilling slow-burn nineteenth century Gothic horror. So do we have another Gothic Prairie horror gem?
Frontier woman Lizzy Macklin lives a harsh, isolated existence with her husband, Isaac, on the barren plains. When a younger couple settles nearby, Lizzy’s life is turned upside down. Left alone for days at a time, Lizzy becomes increasingly convinced that unseen demons stalk the plains in the dark of night. Is the threat real? Or have the chilling howls of the Prairie winds driven her mad?
The Wind Howls With Haunting Atmosphere
Director Emma Tammi shows a deft, patient hand in building atmosphere. From the opening scene where Lizzy walks silently out of her home carrying a still baby, covered in blood, The Wind strikes an unnerving tone. This is slowburn psychological horror that methodically paces itself. And for its first 20 to 30 minutes, The Wind holds your attention with its ambiguous mood. Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief gives Tammi a big assist with some beautiful shots of the desolate prairie landscape. Along with the omnipresent howling wind, the cinematography offers a window into Lizzy’s isolation.
…Sutherland includes some nice subtle nods to the movie’s Gothic horror roots.
From a story-telling perspective, The Wind also benefits from its non-linear narrative. Though it’s certainly not a novel approach, Teresa Sutherland’s screenplay cleverly mirrors its main character’s psychological state. Subtle shifts from past to present keep you as off balance as Lizzy. As an unreliable narrator (see The Spinning Man), Lizzy’s perspective spins the narrative, always keeping a bit of doubt about what may be really happening. Additionally, Sutherland includes some nice subtle nods to the movie’s Gothic horror roots.
The Wind Doesn’t Fully Meet Its Potential
In spite of early promise, The Wind can’t fully follow through on its ambitious storytelling. As is often the case with slow-burn thrillers, Tammi struggles to maintain the tension over the movie’s second act. To a large extent, The Wind relies on Lizzy’s worsening mental state for much of its suspense. It’s her unreliable perspective that casts doubt on what you may or may not be seeing. Yet it’s also this aspect of the movie that removes some of its early established tension. All of that initial dread feels stretched in the middle without a more established threat.
It’s an ambiguous downer of an ending that’s wholly fitting of the movie’s story and tone.
By the end, Tammi may also divide audiences with the movie’s final scenes. It’s an ambiguous downer of an ending that’s wholly fitting of the movie’s story and tone. That is, Tammi and Sutherland are more interested in fulfilling the story’s emotional promise than addressing lingering questions. And what The Wind delivers is some interesting subtext on the often lonely and hard existence of women. This may not be what all viewers, but it’s lofty movie-making that sets The Wind apart.
The Wind Has Enough Chills in the Forecast To Work
While The Wind doesn’t quite meet the early potential it promised, Emma Tammi’s thriller is soaked in creepy atmosphere. There’s a lot to like with the movie’s feel and story. And Caitlin Gerard (Insidious: The Last Key), as Lizzy, grounds the movie with a subtly strong performance. Perhaps it’s the more horror-centric story elements where The Wind falls a little short. A lot of talent clearly worked on The Wind, delivering a flawed, but no less intriguing thriller.