Usually, I don’t even read the glowing review blurbs that movie trailers toss in because they think normal people would ever listen to folks like me. Except, there was one in The Wind’s trailer that hit me like a freight train. It read something like, “The Wind is a mix between The Babadook and The VVitch.” Oof! That’s just brutal to read. Saying a movie is equal parts Babadook (one of my all-time favorites) and The VVitch (one of my most hated) gives me such mixed feelings that my stomach does a flip-flop. It gets worse: just about every review of The Wind claims it’s essentially The BabaVVitch. So how is it? Well, yes, The Wind feels like The BabaVVitch. Half of it is one of my favorite movies of 2019 so far. The other half is…VVitch-y.
The Wind is the first narrative feature by Emma Tammi, who uses the best parts of her documentary skills to make The Wind surreal, as it often feels “realer than real.” The film turns its focus away from the cowboys who rode across the Old West and stays behind at home with their wives. The real star of The Wind isn’t Caitlin Gerard, although she absolutely kills it as a frontierswoman slowly driven mad by sinister supernatural forces. The real star is the feeling of isolation. Tammi creates an amazing effect where Gerard always feels both totally isolated and totally claustrophobic, despite living on plains so flat she can see everything around her for miles.
But don’t think The Wind is about a damsel-in-distress waiting for her husband to save her from the creepies. In true feminist-supernatural-western fashion, the isolation is just a grim side effect of non-supernatural terrors women routinely faced on the frontier. Gerard’s condescending hubby is yet another “guy with a scary mask” in the haunted house of prairie life. Her connection to him maybe has more to do with maintaining interactions with someone, at least, and less to do with actual love. Of course, much of the hoopla comes about when far-too-kind “neighbors” —they live half of a mile away—show up. This is kind of where the Babadook-iness stops and the VVitchness begins, in that I’m 100% convinced there’s a much better version of The Wind without the neighbors.
In most movies, creepy neighbors who are too nice are usually just creepy neighbors who are too nice. In The Wind, they’re a big reason the narrative unfolds in shifting timelines, a technique that now seems as gimmicky as filming a movie in black and white. It feels like a downbeat, slow-burn story got cold feet and decided to mix things up because it was afraid we’d lose interest. It a pretty garish bit of overwriting that comes close to being an outright tone killer. It reminded me of how The VVitch got so caught up in scenes of colonial America farmwork that it forgot about the rest of the movie. The Wind never gets nearly that bad, but The VVitch is very present the few times The Wind stops being good.
Still, The Wind gets bonus points for saying a little something on its way out. By the end, Tammi’s film feels like a rebuke of every horror movie about a woman who fears the supernatural but no one will believe her. We’ve seen billions of them, but The Wind is the first one I’ve seen actually dig into the implications. Sometimes The Wind misses the mark in very familiar ways, but being half-Babadook never hurt anybody.
Grade = B