Friday, March 21, 2008


I will admit to being a little suspicious of this film at first, based on a combination of a cumulative Amazon score of 2 out of 5 and a general disenchantment with recent movies about big monsters hiding in the woods a la Sasquatch. Still, after seeing it listed on a list of great horror movies that nobody watches, I felt I had to at least get a used copy of it, and I’m very glad I did.

The film was made in 2001, but stylistically is largely quite similar to horror thrillers from the 70s. In the happy vein of movies such as Deliverance, it follows a happy family as they decide to spend a weekend out in the woods, only to run afoul on some villainous townies. While the father of the family (Jake Weber of Medium fame) deals with a local who’s resentful of where they’re spending their weekend, his son (Erik Sullivan of Malcolm in the Middle), after speaking to a local old Indian, becomes fascinated by the legend of the Wendigo, a shapeshifting spirit that devours people. It may be a bit of a misnomer to label this a horror movie, as the film largely leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not there actually is anything supernatural going on, or whether or not it’s all in the boy’s head (yes, they do take a fairly decisive stand at the end, but I won’t reveal which way it goes), but given how much he daydreams about the Wendigo attacking him I felt it fit.

It’s interesting, coming as it does on the heels of See No Evil and Automaton Transfusion, to see how the camerawork manages to be just as flashy in this film as in those two while actually working with the story rather than distracting from it. This is a pretty slow-paced film, and we get a lot of shots of the wilderness, but they and the music are so well done that they manage to draw us further into the film rather than bore us like they would in a lesser film. Writer-director-editor Larry Fessenden really did a superb job here, and while this is the first film of his I’ve seen, I hope it won’t be the last.

There’s a lot of great moments to the film, not least of which is the opening credits sequence. As the credits roll against a black screen, a series of children’s monster toys move on and off the screen, while the boy makes sound effects for them. It may not sound like much, and really, it isn’t, but it certainly got me in touch with my childhood and made me happy. There’s also a nice bit of understatedness to the film, as characters are witness to events that are shown to us without explicitly stating what happened, something that happens in almost every movie. For example, there’s one part where the wife is in the kitchen and goes to grab at the sugar, only to see that the sugar is leaking out of the bag. Leaving the bag, she goes across the room to see that there’s a hole in the window. Just form that, we’re able to piece together that someone had shot the bad through the window, but in most movies the director or producer would have felt the need to dumb things down and overexplain what had happened. I’m very grateful to this movie that it trusted me not to be an idiot.

This movie probably will not appeal to everyone. It’s slow paced, and doesn’t have much in the way of action. However, it’s smart, has characters that actually seem like real people rather than a parade of cliches that serve no purpose beyond dying, and has a curious hypnotic manner of drawing you further into the film. I have to believe there’s an audience for a film like this, otherwise why do I even have this blog?

Rating: *** ½

No comments: