Friday, December 06, 2019

The Wind (2018)

The Wind (2018). Caitlin Gerard as Lizzie. Please click to enlarge the photo.
The Wind (2018). Caitlin Gerard as Lizzie, Ashley Zukerman as Isaac. Please click to enlarge the photo.

At the premiere, left to right: Emma Tammi, Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Ashley Zukerman, Teresa Sutherland, and Dylan McTee at a Q&A for The Wind at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 11 September 2018. Photo: hinnk / Wikipedia.

The Wind – Demons of the Prairie
The Wind / The Wind.
    US © 2018 Performance Pictures, LLC. – Two Cabins, LLC. – PC: Soapbox Films / Divide/Conquer / Mind Hive Films. P: Christopher Alender, David Grove Churchill Viste.
    D: Emma Tammi. SC: Teresa Sutherland. Cin: Lyn Moncrief – colour – 2,39:1. PD: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar. Set dec: Elsbeth Mumm. Cost: Kate De Blasio. Makeup: Jennifer M. Quinteros. M: Ben Lovett. S: Juan Campos. ED: Alexandra Amick. Casting: Sunday Boling, Meg Morman.
    C: Caitlin Gerard (Lizzy Macklin), Julia Goldani Telles (Emma Harper), Ashley Zukerman (Isaac Macklin), Dylan McTee (Gideon Harper ), Miles Anderson (The Reverend).
    Loc: New Mexico.
    86 min
    Festival premiere: 10 Sep 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
    US premiere: 5 April 2019.
    Finnish premiere: 6 Dec 2019 – released by Night Visions Distribution – Finnish subtitles by Miia Mattila.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, 6 Dec 2019.

IMDb summary: "A plains-woman faces the harshness and isolation of the untamed land in the Western frontier of the late 1800s."

AA: A Western nightmare movie with a young female protagonist facing overwhelming conditions at the prairie.

There is a distinguished tradition in this "woman in the wilderness" type of film. The title of Emma Tammi's film is probably a tribute to Victor Sjöström's masterpiece The Wind (1928) starring Lillian Gish. William K. Everson comments: "The theme of a woman battling inner turmoil and the physical hardships of the wilds or the frontier was one that appealed to a number of directors at the end of the silent era, perhaps because of the simplicity and austerity of theme and the opportunities afforded for both virtuoso performances and direction." Further distinguished examples include F. W. Murnau's City Girl (1930) which was influenced by Sjöström. Both had been inspired by a William K. Howard masterpiece, White Gold (1927) and perhaps also by William Beaudine's The Canadian (1926), based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham. Let's also remember the stark prologue of John M. Stahl's The Song of Life (1922) which precedes them all.

The director Emma Tammi and the screenwriter Teresa Sutherland marry the Western with New Wave horror. The Wind is a ghost story with a haunting sense of the supernatural. The roots are in the school of Polanski: the disintegration of personality in Repulsion and The Tenant, and the horror of childbirth in Rosemary's Baby. Lizzy's trauma of having delivered a stillborn child is perhaps at the root of all what happens.

"Demons of the Prairie" is a brochure detailing various ghosts (Messimer, Mara, Babel... ) on rampage in the desert. It seems to give demonic names to ordeals of frontier life, even including adultery and jealousy.

Just like in the 1920s, the theme provides opportunities for virtuoso direction and performances. The film is thrillingly directed by Emma Tammi, the cinematography is based on a sublime scope composition by Lyn Moncrief, and the roles are played with high intensity, especially the female leading role by Caitlin Gerard.

The screenplay and the montage are based on a complex pattern of flashbacks, interspersed with hallucinations. The story unravels in a multiple spiral movement going both forward and in reverse gear, both movements offering twists and turns and surprises, repeatedly changing our perceptions of the protagonists and everything that happens. It's impressive but perhaps also slightly frustrating when our assumptions are proven false so many times.

The score by Ben Lovett and the sound design by Juan Campos are powerful, using the haunting sound of the wind as the starting point. Even here I was thinking: "less would be more". "The wind as the spirit of the devil", the sound of the supernatural wind might have more impact if left more intact.

To sum up: The Wind is a distinguished contribution to new wave horror film. I look forward to more from Emma Tammi and her talented cast and crew.


Amerikansuomalaisen Emma Tammen Yhdysvalloissa tuotettu esikoiselokuva The Wind on psykologinen kauhutrilleri, jonka polttoaineena on vahva naisenergia. Tarinan voimakastahtoinen päähenkilö Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) on kuin villin lännen armottoman rajaseudun versio Alien-elokuvien Ripleystä.

Kertomus sijoittuu tuulen tuivertamalle loputtomalle preerialle, jonne asettuneet uudisasukkaat Lizzy ja Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) saavat pitkään kestäneen yksinelon jälkeen naapureita. Tulokkaiden tuoma helpotus yksinäisyyteen jää kuitenkin lyhytaikaiseksi, kun preeriademonit alkavat riivata etenkin Lizzyn arkea. Vai onko sittenkin kyse mielen hajoamisesta lohduttoman ympäristön ja raskaan elämän luomassa ristipaineessa?

The Windissä katsojan ihon alle hiljalleen tunkeutuvat kauhusävyt, demoninen folklore ja toiminnallisemmat jaksot lyövät kättä kerronnassa, joka tuo mieleen Robert Eggersin kauhuhitti The Witchin. Päähenkilön kasvavan vainoharhaisuuden kuvauksessa on häivähdyksiä Polanski-klassikoista Inho ja Rosemaryn painajainen, miksei myös Stanley Kubrickin Hohdosta.

The Windistä tekee tapauksen ennen muuta sen tapa kuvata villin lännen armottomuutta harvinaisesta naisnäkökulmasta. Valkokangasta hallitseva Caitlin Gerard kantaa elokuvaa yhtä varmasti kuin hänen kivikasvoinen roolihenkilönsä haulikkoa. Kokonaisuuden täydentävät luovan työryhmän muut avainhenkilöt, käsikirjoittaja Teresa Sutherland ja leikkaaja Alexandra Amick.

Suomen elokuvasäätiön ohjelmistotuki 2018


”It's refreshing to see such an original stab at this type of indie genre-bender, especially one told from a strictly female point of view”
– Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

”Hugely promising debut in terms of Tammi's steady, assured directorial craft”
– Jessica Kiang, Variety

”Confident, thoughtful, yet creeping and powerful film”
 – Shelagh Rowan-Legg / Screen Anarchy

“Fans of nerve-racking movies The Babadook and The Witch are most likely to fall under this picture’s cold spell”
– Victor Stiff / The Playlist

The Wind should prove to be a breakout for documentary filmmaker Tammi—women directors don’t always tackle genre for their first narrative feature. --- Tammi demonstrates a real knack for visual storytelling and mood; balancing tone and pace while pulling off some very creepy moments; and drawing out an understated but powerful performance from [Caitlin] Gerard. --- A fine piece of ethereal, feminist horror filmmaking that signals talents to watch in its director and star.”
– Katie Walsh, Nerdist



The Wind

When a woman moves to the American frontier to settle it with her husband, an evil presence soon makes itself known and infects her with paranoia, in Emma Tammi’s sinister western horror.

With The Wind, director Emma Tammi and writer Teresa Sutherland have embarked on a nightmarish yet empathetic exploration of domestic solitude, skilfully conjuring — in bone-chilling visual and sonic strokes — an indescribable spectre that seems to emanate from the abysses of the night itself.

Unravelling across a series of flashbacks that propel us towards the devastating aftermath of violence that opens the film and beyond, the story assumes the perspective of Elizabeth Macklin (Caitlin Gerard), a settler of the 1800s who has accompanied her husband in his effort to cultivate a desolate stretch of the American Western frontier.

Elizabeth has long perceived a festering evil permeating their pastures, only to have her observations dismissed by her husband as religious superstitions. However, when a couple arrives to rehabilitate a nearby abandoned cabin, their strange experiences rekindle Elizabeth's own infectious paranoia. As with any great horror film, the devil is in the details (often quite literally), and Tammi meticulously sows sinister threads into every creak of wood, every rattle of rusted metal, and every eerie breath of howling wind.With its exquisite photography and its dread-soaked tone, The Wind, in the tradition of The Witch, represents an uncanny chapter in the annals of American folk-horror.




In the nineteenth-century American frontier, Lizzy and her husband Isaac arrive from St. Louis to an unpopulated area of New Mexico, hoping to begin a settlement. They live in solitude until another couple, Emma and Gideon Harper, arrive from Illinois and move into an abandoned cabin nearby. Lizzy befriends the younger Emma, whose marriage to Gideon is apparently not copacetic, and she and Isaac help them repair the damaged cabin and revitalize the garden so they can grow crops. Lizzy confides in Emma about having lost her son, Samuel, in a stillbirth. Throughout her pregnancy, Lizzy had grown increasingly paranoid that a demon was coming to her in the night, especially when Isaac was away.

Late one night, Gideon awakens Isaac and Lizzy, telling them Emma is unwell. They arrive at the couple's cabin, and Lizzy finds Emma hiding under a bed, talking to herself incoherently. She tells Lizzy that something is after her, and that it wants her unborn child. Lizzy renders Emma unconscious with chloroform, and Emma slaps her in the face during the struggle. Throughout her pregnancy, Emma continues to confide to Lizzy that she senses a supernatural presence that she cannot explain, but Lizzy disregards her. Emma tells Lizzy she plans to name the child after either her or Isaac.

Near the end of Emma's pregnancy, she apparently shoots herself in the head in the middle of the night with Lizzy's shotgun. Lizzy attempts to perform a caesarean delivery to save Emma's unborn child, but is unsuccessful. Isaac and Gideon bury Emma and her child, and travel to report the deaths, leaving Lizzy alone. Lizzy's paranoia reemerges after they depart, and she encounters various frightening incidents: A pack of wolves attack her, and she subsequently shoots her pet goat. Late one night, she sees lights emanating from the Harper cabin, and goes to investigate; she finds the cabin empty, but is tormented by violent poltergeist activity before losing consciousness. She awakens the following morning, and finds Emma's diary lying on the floor. In it, she reads an entry in which Emma describes her disdain for Gideon, and claims to be carrying Isaac's child. Lizzy burns the pages in the fireplace. To relieve her anxiety, Lizzy renders herself unconscious with chloroform.

Some time later, Lizzy is awoken by a reverend passing by. She provides him a meal and offers him lodging in the Harpers' empty cabin, but urges that he not answer the door after dark. In the middle of the night, the reverend knocks frantically on Lizzy's door, claiming to have been attacked by an unseen entity. She allows him in, but quickly realizes he is a manifestation of the entity itself, and flees, locking herself in the Harpers' cabin. In the morning, she finds the reverend's corpse outside. Shortly after, she visits Samuel's grave, planning to commit suicide with a shotgun, but is distracted by the sound of Isaac returning on his horse. To Lizzy's shock, Isaac tells her that he passed the reverend en route, and that the two had a conversation.

Gideon returns, packs his remaining belongings, and moves away, but leaves behind a trunk of books for Lizzy and Isaac. In the trunk, Lizzy finds a tract detailing various "demons of the prairie." Lizzy and Isaac argue about the tract, as he fears reading it will reignite her paranoia about the supernatural. Isaac storms out, and moments later, Lizzy is levitated and thrown across the cabin by an unseen force; she crashes onto the kitchen table, impaling her ribcage on a pair of scissors. Some time later, Lizzy awakens tied to her bed. Isaac, who found Emma's journal, confronts Lizzy, having realized the truth: She murdered Emma out of jealousy. Lizzy manages to free herself, and stabs Isaac in the throat with a piece of broken glass, killing him. At dawn, she stumbles outside and collapses on the ground. As she stares at the expanse of land around her, she reminisces about her pregnancy, and of an encounter with the reverend upon her and Isaac's arrival, when he gave her a tract about the demons of the prairie.

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