By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles and Ashley Zukerman
Directed by Emma Tammi
Written by Teresa Sutherland
It’s interesting to note that THE WIND (now on VOD and in select theaters; see a list below) was written and directed by two different people, since it possesses the unity of vision and rigorous clarity one usually finds in films with one creative mind behind them. Even as the storyline jumps around in time and encompasses a number of themes, it’s never difficult to track the narrative and the emotional state of its compelling heroine—or to remain immersed in the unsettling atmosphere.
Director Emma Tammi, making her first narrative feature after a number of documentary credits, and writer Teresa Sutherland, who based this script on her short film THE WINTER, even get away with starting their movie toward the end of their story, revealing the gruesome fate of a key character. Rather than feeling like a spoiler, it piques our interest to find out how things got to this grisly place. Don’t let this opener lead you to expect the rest of THE WIND to be a bloodbath, though; while Tammi doesn’t flinch from showing the gory details where both human and animal corpses are concerned, those sights are few and far between, and she relies much more—and quite effectively—on the power of suggestion. She gets a great shiver from the mere hint of a shapeshifter via a shadow seen through a crack in a door. But is it actually there, or just in the mind of the film’s protagonist, Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard)?
It’s a question intriguingly sustained by the filmmakers and Gerard as they play out a scenario set in the late 1800s on a lonely patch of the American frontier (shot on austere locations in New Mexico). Lizzy and her husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) inhabit a small house in the middle of nowhere, though Isaac isn’t around much, as was common of men at the time. Left on her own in this isolated space, Lizzy comes to believe there are supernatural presences hovering beyond her front door, heralded by the constantly moaning, sighing, howling wind. There’s nowhere she can run to when her fears threaten to overtake her, no comfort of a church—the only sign of religion is a traveling reverend (Miles Anderson), and he comes bearing pamphlets describing “Demons of the Prairie.”
Tammi, with the strong assist of stark and spooky cinematography by Lyn Moncrief (who’s shot a couple of Hulu/Blumhouse’s INTO THE DARK movies), shuddery sound design by Jason Chiodo and Juan Campos and the haunting, jittery score by Ben Lovett (THE SIGNAL, THE RITUAL), allows us to share Lizzy’s growing unease and claustrophobia. Relief from this distress appears to arrive in the persons of Emma (Julia Goldani Telles) and Gideon Harper (Dylan McTee), a city couple who have relocated to a nearby cabin. Emma in particular offers Lizzy some much-needed company—yet she begins to fall victim to her superstitions, which only exacerbates Lizzy’s own concerns. Neither husband is much help, with Isaac counterproductively insisting that the objects of Lizzy’s fears are all in her head. Whether they are or not, Lizzy is sure they’re getting closer…
Gerard, who played Elise Rainier’s psychically gifted niece in INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, gives a deeply felt performance that holds THE WIND’s fractured narrative together. Even though we witness her experiences out of order, there’s never any confusion about where we are on her trip to the psychological dark side. And while the manifestations of the forces haunting Lizzy become more pronounced in the film’s home stretch, Tammi makes even the most explicit moments all of a piece with her generally insinuating approach. For her and Sutherland, THE WIND stands as a rewarding collaboration and an auspicious debut.