Emma Tammi‘s The Wind is a harrowing chiller that utilises a rare combination of genres: horror and western. Focusing more on suspense and paranoia than cheap scares, The Wind is a slow-burn descent into madness that gives weight to the phrase “cabin fever”.
Set in 1800s pioneer America, the film follows plainswoman Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard, Insidious: The Last Key) as she guards her homestead from the harsh wilderness while coping with the recent loss of her child. Left alone by her travelling husband (Ashley Zukerman, The Code) for long stretches of time, Lizzy is slowly driven mad by the isolation and ceaseless wind, as well as facing the very real everyday dangers of life on the plains.
The narrative consists of several flashbacks that tell the story of Lizzy’s time on the land. If life wasn’t already hard enough by themselves, Lizzy and her husband are joined by two strange newcomers (Julia Goldani Telles and Dylan McTee) who also begin to feel the never-ending wind’s malevolent presence.
Gerard is fantastic as Lizzy, delivering a harrowed performance that brings to light the brutal reality of being a frontier settler. Far from helpless, Gerard portrays Lizzy as just as capable and independent as real plainswomen were expected to be. She’s not without fragility, however, and her performance demonstrates how grief and suspicion can easily warp the mind.
The Wind builds tension expertly, as what starts as a series of odd encounters and suspicious coincidences soon escalates into terrifying menace. It quickly becomes difficult to distinguish between psychosis and reality, conjuring the same feelings of doubt that Lizzie undergoes throughout the film.
It’s a film with very little fat to trim, and no small detail goes to waste. Something as seemingly insignificant as a glance or a small pamphlet all add up towards building this desolate world and the strain within it.
If you enjoyed 2016’s The Witch, you’ll likely find The Wind reminiscent in not just its telling of a supernatural early American tale, but its stripped-back presentation as well. This has the added bonus of really making you feel that this was how stoutly Christian frontier dwellers would have interpreted such dire situations.
The barren, lonely landscape and wooden cabins shine under natural daylight and the flicker of candles. This is one of The Wind’s best features – how authentic it feels. Free of the gloss you’d expect from bigger films, the The Wind capitalises on its smaller budget with a more understated approach. Aside from the mournful twang of guitars, there’s very little music. However, the titular wind never fails to fill the silence, making its ominous presence felt right from the opening.
The Wind and its stark, truthful approach to its pioneer setting is about as believable as the supernatural can get, turning the troubling realities of the time into something much more sinister and intangible. Religious tropes aren’t exactly rare in horror, and the film uses them expertly to probe into much more psychological questions.
Check out the trailer for The Wind below.