Wind Walkers


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wind Walkers
"With alternatively beautifully and wisely low key cinematography, Friedenberg turns a landscape many will associate with holidays into something primal and filled with unknown threats."

Long ago, perhaps before the dawn of man, there was a spirit that lived in the woods and the wild places, or so the old stories go. Curious parallel mythologies exist in North America and in Scandinavia, from where its first settlers came some 14 millennia ago, along with a rare linguistic parallel - wen, wind, wendl, wendigo, wind walker. A spirit that travels on the wind, that seduces and possesses men, making them crave the flesh of their own kind. These stories made their way into literature in the early 20th century and finally bled into cinema at the dawn of the 21st. Now director Russell Friedenberg has delivered his own version, merging this ancient lore with modern horrors to produce something that stands adrift in time.

Here we meet soldiers. There have always been soldiers, and the film's introduction by an elderly Native American man - sadly destined to be spoofed if the film does well - reminds us that they have often intruded into territories where they didn't belong. Were there always wind walkers? the film asks, or were they created or called down by the last defenders of the land as a curse upon the white invaders? Given such a purpose, will they any longer distinguish white man from Seminole when the latter join in invading Middle Eastern nations?

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In the twilight marshes of the Everglades, a group of friends shelter in a decaying hut. They're on a hunting trip. Two of them have recently returned from combat in a far off country; a third, who didn't go, is almost jealous, all too aware that there's something between them they're not sharing, not aware enough of how unspeakable such a thing might be. Outside, the wind gusts aggressively; there's talk of a storm coming. The trees shudder and the long grass billows, making it difficult to see what might be moving through it. Suddenly there's a skinned thing in the trees, decaying flesh in the bath. Somebody has been inside the hut. Trained to the point of paranoia, the men immediately fear danger, begin to distrust each other, begin to distrust their own senses. Then the real violence begins.

In 1978, George Romero put four survivors in a shopping mall and had them grimly speculate about the zombie plague outside. Here, too, it's implied that something terrible is happening across the world; we hear snatches of it on the radio; perhaps there is nobody left who isn't guilty of some intrusion, calling down death. Here the tide of that invisible epidemic laps up against the sides of the hut like the overflow of Lake Okeechobee. The stripped-down life of the huntsman is just a whisker away from the animal nature of the possessed, whilst the soldiers' guilt is eating away at them, producing flashbacks, hallucinations. Is there really a monster or is somebody having a breakdown? When everybody wants to defend themselves, who can be trusted with a gun?

Wind Walkers doesn't present the world's best example of coherent plotting and the action is sometimes confused, but in many ways this adds to its atmosphere, which is its great strength. With alternatively beautifully and wisely low key cinematography, Friedenberg turns a landscape many will associate with holidays into something primal and filled with unknown threats. The constant voice of the wind, whether howling or whispering, reminds us of forces perhaps still older than the spirits of the land, of the smallness of man. Even if our heroes survive, will there be anywhere for them to go? Wind Walkers sees the wild places reach out, ready to reclaim what has always been theirs.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2015
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Friends returned from war run into trouble on a hunting trip in their local swamp. Have they fallen foul of an ancient curse?

Director: Russell Friedenberg

Writer: Russell Friedenberg

Starring: Glen Powell, Phil Burke, Zane Holtz, Rudy Youngblood, Johnny Sequoyah, Castille Landon, Kiowa Gordon, J LaRose

Year: 2015

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2015

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