The Wind (2019)
Written by Teresa Sutherland
Directed by Emma Tammi
Produced by Christopher Alender and David Grove & Churchill Viste
“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain”. Never have those wind swept, wide open plains felt so claustrophobic.
With a cast of just five actors, two cabins and the aforementioned plains, Director Emma Tammi has crafted a chilling, beautifully shot, tightly told psychological thriller. As she said during the interview, “It’s the wide-open landscape that ultimately turns on our main protagonist and causes her demise.”
“The forces of nature tremble with an unseen evil in this chilling western tale of madness, paranoia, and supernatural terror howling across the homestead.” So says the film’s tag line, and when it opens with a blood covered frontier woman holding a dead baby, you know you’re in for some tough times. There is no dialogue for nearly the first ten minutes, but we understand everything that’s not being said. When they do start talking, you likely won’t realize they hadn’t been.
This is the story of Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard), a strong but tender frontierswoman with a sweet – though often absent – husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) who have settled out in the middle of nowhere. After the loss of her child she’s happy to have some new neighbors, Emma and Gideon (Julia Goldani Telles and Dylan McTee). But be careful what you wish for. The new couple seem a bit off. They are ill equipped for life in this wilderness, and Lizzy and Isaac eagerly come to their aide. Lizzy makes a wonderful observation that in cities people stay strangers, but out here you need to band together and be close. When Lizzy learns a terrible secret, it feeds her paranoia about this place. She repeats, “The land here is not right”. The relentless, howling wind and a sinister presence that seems to be one with the land add to her sense of dread.
Gerard is perfectly cast to capture Lizzy’s independence, kindness and terror. Is she seeing some demonic presence out in the fields, or is she just losing it? Gerard plays those cards close and Tammi gives us just enough to keep you guessing.
Told from Lizzy’s increasingly unreliable point of view, the film jumps around quite a bit, so pay attention to the little details that show time (like Lizzy’s blue dress) because it is this hopping back and forth that makes the narrative work. Told in a straight line, it would have been too easy to see what was happening. Instead, we are offered a glimpse into the workings of Lizzy’s mind. It adds to the tension and despair when even we are not certain which “when” she’s remembering. This treatment gives us all the right reveals without ever seeming like a gimmick. Kudos to screenwriter Teresa Sutherland for telling a coherent, emotional story in this format.
Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief does a magnificent job of capturing the grandeur of the New Mexico locations while almost making us choke on the dust – from both the plains and the tiny cabins our characters call home. He manages to take these spare spaces situated within vast, endless plains, and leave us gasping for space.
The Wind is a well told tale of madness brought on by isolation, suggestion and paranoia. Complete with a few jump scares for traditionalists, this is a true terror for the mind.