The Windmill Massacre


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Windmill Massacre
"With a lot of characters to deal with, The Windmill Massacre wastes no time on setting up. The basic logic of the situation is quickly established and there’s never much of a pause between deaths."

If you’re looking for a location for a scary film, the Netherlands, with its open landscapes, neat little villages and tendency to cultivate cycle paths rather than psychopaths, wouldn’t seem to have much to offer. Windmills, however, have their share of gruesome legends attached. Nick Jongerius’ feature debut draws on these old stories, and on city dwellers’ willingness to believe that being an hour’s walk from town equals isolation, to invite us to share a night of terror with a group of tourists whose bus has broken down.

Why are these people taking a bus tour of windmill country? It turns out that it’s not just because they want to see the sights – they have lots of reasons. One is on the run after assaulting her abusive father; another is seeking refuge from his guilt after betraying his grandmother’s trust. A father with his son in tow keeps losing his temper with everyone in his determination that they have a good time. The boy is worried because he can’t get hold of his mother. As they find out more about each other after their breakdown, the passengers come to realise that they have a lot of dark secrets. Were they really just unlucky, or has something sinister brought them to this place?

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With a lot of characters to deal with, The Windmill Massacre wastes no time on setting up. The basic logic of the situation is quickly established and there’s never much of a pause between deaths. While this will keep slasher fans paying attention, a bit more inventiveness in methods of dispatch would have been appreciated. The rush to get through them leads to some confusion, and other points are hammered home more often than is needed. In a way, though, this unevenness suits the film, because it harks back to the genre favourites of the Eighties; a tighter movie might have a more difficult time winning the affection of fans.

Though this is an ensemble piece, it centres on young Australian Jennifer, who is given a bit more weight by Australian actress Charlotte Beaumont than is there in the script. The best performance comes from young Adam Thomas Wright, building on the promise he showed back in 2011 in The Awakening, and his scenes help the film to stay grounded, giving us a reason to care. It helps that he has one of the better written characters, observing events and asking pertinent questions as the others rush en masse to believe whatever theory is convenient for advancing the plot.

With the action taking place entirely at night, the film builds its atmosphere at the expense of the visual element, and over-hasty editing robs some scenes of the impact they deserve. Jongerius struggles to balance the dread of inevitable doom with the more urgent kind of fear that can only stem from thinking that the characters have a chance. He also struggles with creating a suitably threatening demonic presence, but things pick up when the action gets more physical following a last minute twist. Though the windmill itself doesn’t get much of a look in and there are none of the inventive tricks of, say, The Brides Of Dracula or Sleepy Hollow, it works nicely in the background and lends character to what is otherwise a very straightforward slasher film, cheesy morality and all. The film has a healthier attitude to women and to mental health issues than its predecessors, but it’s essentially a nostalgia trip.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2016
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When their bus breaks down, tourists are forced to seek shelter in a disused barn beside a sinister windmill where, legend has it, a Devil-worshipping miller once ground the bones of locals instead of grain.
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Director: Nick Jongerius

Writer: Chris W Mitchell, Suzy Quid

Starring: Noah Taylor, Charlotte Beaumont, Patrick Baladi, Fiona Hampton, Ben Batt

Year: 2016

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Netherlands


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