THE WIND **** USA 2018 Dir: Emma Tammi. 86 mins
No one says a word for the first few, haunting minutes of Emma Tammi’s atmospheric feature debut. The audience is afforded glimpses of a stillbirth, a suicide and a sombre burial. A key character asks with muted despair “How did she get my gun?” At the tail end of the 19th century, German-born Caitlin Gerard, brought over to the U.S. as a child, leads an often-lonely existence on the unforgiving plains while her husband (Ashley Zukerman) heads off for supplies before the harsh winter sets in.
In a community so small there’s not enough people to warrant a church, Gerard faces the elements, an assault by ravenous wolves and a sense of possible, encroaching madness. “This land is funny…it can easily play tricks on your mind…” notes Gerard’s friend (Julia Goldani Telles) before her own mental state deteriorates and random whispering evolves into a real fear of something Evil persecuting her unborn baby.
Stunningly shot by Lyn Moncrief to resemble the desolate, sinister horror-western that John Ford never made (and afforded an abrasive, unsettling score by THE RITUAL’s Ben Lovett), this female-driven genre-hybrid is dominated by an eerie soundscape and Gerard’s authentic performance. Consulting the “Demons of the Prairie” guidebook for hints of what might be happening, she slowly fractures while director Tammi refuses to either over-explain everything or break the carefully crafted spell with horror clichés. Most of the time the visuals offer no more explicit gratification than shadows on curtains, but the sense of dread never lets up. Whether or not you accept the supernatural overtones, THE WIND holds up as an all too rare and powerful study of a woman’s plight in the Old West, where claims of something “out there” are easily and routinely dismissed as typical female anxiety and superstition.
Review by Steven West