The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Wendigo (2001)
Writer and director: Larry Fessenden

review by Donald Morefield

City dwellers George and Kim take their eight-year-old son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) into the snow country of upstate New York, for a quiet family weekend away from it all at a friend's empty farmhouse. On the winter evening's drive, their Volvo hits and injures a young stag. Psycho redneck Otis (John Speredakos) and his deer hunter buddies are not happy about this accident, because the car has broken the buck's antlers, and a tense situation ensues as the angry men with guns intimidate and embarrass George (Jake Weber), and frighten his boy.
   Later, ensconced safely in their comfortable retreat, our urbanite protagonists adjust to country life by enjoying the opportunity for a romantic interlude at the fireside (though with a voyeur watching), and sporty adventure on the Christmas landscape as George plans to take Miles sledding. First though, we have the obligatory shopping expedition into the nearest small town, where Miles is intrigued by a little wooden carving, and is told a myth of the ferocious wendigo spirit by a spooky American Indian. George is concerned about bullet holes in the farmhouse walls, and suspects that the embittered Otis has turned stalker, but he keeps these unsettling discoveries to himself. When the sled run results in tragedy and Kim is forced out into the night to rescue her missing son and husband, there are plenty of extremely creepy scenes as the palpable atmosphere of mystery, anxiety and supernatural terror finally connects with violence and brutality.
   Patricia Clarkson is greatly talented actress. She played the wife of Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables (1987), a TV journalist opposite Clint Eastwood's cop in the fifth 'Dirty Harry' movie, The Dead Pool (1988), and since then has appeared in an impressive range of cinema and TV productions, including a small screen adaptation of Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea (1990), crime series Murder One (1995), lesbian drama High Art (1998), Stephen King's The Green Mile (1999), murder mystery The Pledge (2001), and the new TV version of Carrie (2002). As wife, mother, and psychotherapist Kim, she delivers another fine and understated performance, with wholly unexpected reactions to her family's troubles at the heart of this independently produced, offbeat monster movie and ghost story.
   Rooted in the backwoods gothic tradition, Wendigo is an exceptionally chilling genre drama with outstanding artistic credibility. Instead of a straightforward special effects creature, we get an evocation of the unknown where an almost invisible spirit of nature deals with aggressive insular rustics and sophisticated metropolitan intruders with the same prosaic impartiality. This is not a depiction of good against evil, wherein morality triumphs over adversity, but a glimpse of a far grander scheme in which human mortals are briefly involved. Although the foreground action is concerned with late 20th century animosities between different working- and middle class people (as in John Boorman's Deliverance, 1972), the overall mood is far closer to that of Stanley Kubrick's superb The Shining (1980), and perhaps this aspect is perhaps best explored and illustrated by the first-person cinematic style of director Larry Fessenden (who also wrote the screenplay and edited his own film). The camera pivots and swirls, suggesting the dizzy sensation of city folks' agoraphobic reaction to the great outdoors. Wendigo is a skilful blend of harsh reality and awesome legend, and collected the best film award at 2001's Woodstock Film Festival.
   This is Fessenden's third film in a loose genre-defined trilogy, which includes Frankenstein variant No Telling (1991), and the vampire flick Habit (1997). For those with a taste for intelligent yet genuinely scary movies, Wendigo is 90 minutes of refreshing magic.
Wendigo poster
Buy stuff at:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com

Wendigo on video


home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2002 Pigasus Press