George is a high-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency. Needing some time away from the city, George, his wife Kim, and their son Miles head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them. George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road; after George stops to inspect the damage, he’s confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time. An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken. When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that it’s next door to Otis’ property, and they soon find that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken over the cottage. Since, when they stopped at a store en route to the cabin, a shopkeeper told Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a beast from Indian folklore who is half-man, half-deer, and can change itself at will, the child begins to wonder if the creature might have something to do with his family’s sudden misfortune.
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated R for a strong sex scene, language and violent images
Kim (Patricia Clarkson), George (Jake Weber) and son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) are headed to the country for winter weekend relief from Manhattan’s bustling metropolis. On the way, they hit a buck and end up stuck in the snow. A group of hunters who were tracking the buck come along. Rather than helping, at least one of the hunters, Otis (John Speredakos), is mad because the accident cracked the buck’s antlers. George, Kim and Miles are disturbed by Otis, and even worse, we quickly learn that Otis has learned where they’re staying. Meanwhile, Miles is given a wendigo (a kind of Indian shape-shifting spirit/monster) token by an Indian whom only he has seen. Is Otis a psycho out to get our heroes? Are there wendigos in the woods?
I can see where Wendigo would have a number of problems appealing to viewers. It is a fairly low budget film, with technical limitations frequently showing through. Much of the film, and maybe all of it, is not really about the titular creature. And perhaps the fatal blow for many people, it has a very ambiguous ending, with a number of questions left unanswered. If you are discouraged by such endings, and you do not like films that have an aim of making you think about and discuss what everything meant, do yourself a favor and avoid Wendigo.
Personally, I like films like that. I usually prefer some ambiguity. The marketing of Wendigo is geared towards those who want a quick, scary creature flick, where they’d expect a grand battle with some supernatural monster who is defeated in the end, and everything is tied up neatly except for an opening for Wendigo 2: The Monster Returns, but that’s not what this film is. Wendigo is much more thoughtful and poetic than the surface of such a creature flick would suggest to most people. Heck, writer/director Larry Fessenden even has a character, George, reciting Robert Frost. The Frost poem, and George’s comment that Frost can evoke complex imagery and atmosphere out of seemingly simple things, is the key to the film.
One of the best things about the film is its complexity. In a way, there are four different films occurring at the same time, a thread from each character. In George’s thread, he isn’t exactly the happiest or most pleasant guy in the world, and he has some parenting problems. For him, the film is a realistic, horrific descent of his life going from bad to worse. In Patricia’s thread, she’s looking for rejuvenation of her life and family. She’s a psychologist mostly denying the problems around her, hoping that they’ll go away and get better. In Otis’ thread, he’s even more down on his luck than George, and George’s arrival into his life symbolizes the final “crack” in his psychological armor. And in Miles’ thread, which is probably the most important of the film, life is like a grand poem due to his youthful innocence and interpretation of the world. But this is a horror story, after all, albeit one with a glimmer of hope, and the events in the film give Miles’ poetic interpretations a dark turn. Still, when everything is said and done, he seems to be the only one retaining his composure, due to the poetic outlook.
Even though the film is low budget, there are a lot of well-executed higher budget ambitions. Fessenden and director of photography Terry Stacey find some great shots in beautiful locations, and created some interesting slide show like montages (such as the cards, or the Indian wendigo images from the book). There are also interesting more traditional montages, such as Miles’ nightmare. Wendigo is better shot and edited than many big budget films.
Other technical aspects are good for the budget. The “Wendigo” appearance at the end worked for me and was appropriately ambiguous. The lighting was usually good–there were a few times that dark scenes weren’t as clear as they could have been, but it seemed to be more of a problem with the film stock (it could have been digital instead) or transfer. I thought the performances were good and far more realistic (if you value that) than the majority of films. Although I didn’t really notice the score, it must have been okay, or I would have noticed it with a negative judgment.
Overall, Wendigo is a very good film that deserves to be watched without preconceptions, as long as you don’t mind having to think about the movies you watch.
Director: Larry Fessenden
Writer: Larry Fessenden
Stars: Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Erik Per Sullivan
Country of origin: United States
Filming locations: Kingston, New York, USA
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media
Codec ID : isom (isom/iso2/avc1/mp41)
File size : 1.70 GiB
Duration : 1 h 32 min
Overall bit rate : 2 640 kb/s
Links: iMDB | NFO | Screenshots backup