Lizzy is a tough, resourceful frontierswoman settling a remote stretch of land on the 19th-century American frontier. Isolated from civilization in a desolate wilderness where the wind never stops howling, she begins to sense a sinister presence that seems to be borne of the land itself, an overwhelming dread that her husband dismisses as superstition. When a newlywed couple arrive at a nearby homestead, their presence amplifies Lizzy’s fears, setting into motion a shocking chain of events.
Initial release: 5 April 2019 (USA)
Director: Emma Tammi
Distributed by: IFC Films
Screenplay: Teresa Sutherland
Producers: Christopher Alender, David Grove Churchill Viste
The woman walks out of the cabin, the wind whipping all around her. Her white dress is bloodied. She’s carrying a baby, which isn’t making a sound; the two men staring at her are equally silent. (We eventually hear a howl of pain coming from offscreen.) Later, we see her standing over a grave … only there isn’t an infant in the coffin, but an adult female. The men finish burying her, then they saddle up the horses and leave for what may be a days-long trip. She’s left standing there, glimpsed through a barn door Searchers-style, completely alone.
Some seven minutes in, director Emma Tammi’s feature debut The Wind has already given you 90-percent of what you need to know about her homesteader horror movie. The landscape these people live on is pitiless, stark, violent, haunting. Men are stoic and strong, but also somewhat useless; they’re often A.W.O.L. as well. Women are isolated to a frightening degree and left to fend for themselves. You’re going to get classic Western iconography, and it’s also going to get fucked with a bit. Don’t expect the chronology of events to be presented in order. And most of all, the vibe is going to be heavy frontier-gothic with liberal doses of feminized psychological dread. If you’re thinking “Repulsion by John Ford,” you’re more on the right track than you could possibly know.
Two couples, two pregnancies and two dead bodies right up front make “The Wind,” Emma Tammi’s first narrative feature, a frontier ghost story with very human stakes. And maybe a very human explanation: Like Tommy Lee Jones’s marvelous 2014 Western, “The Homesman,” this pioneer chiller shines a gender-specific spotlight on the ways isolation and hardship can ravage a woman’s mind.
The first time we see Lizzy (an intense Caitlin Gerard), she’s exiting her log cabin bearing a bloody bundle and wearing a traumatized expression.
“How did she get my gun?” she asks her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), and their new neighbor, Gideon (Dylan McTee), whose erstwhile wife, Emma (Julia Goldani Telles), is about to follow her newborn into the ground. Frequent flashbacks show Emma’s gradual descent from emotional fragility to hallucinatory breakdown as a religious tract about demons becomes an obsession. Soon Lizzy, left alone while Isaac fetches supplies, is also beset by terrifying, shape-shifting apparitions. Their provenance and intentions are unclear, but Lizzy, a staunch German immigrant, isn’t about to give in to her fears.
tmospheric if narratively thin, “The Wind” (similarities to the 1928 silent film of the same name are coincidental) kicks up a competitive dynamic between the two women that further muddies the psychological waters. Teresa Sutherland’s nonlinear screenplay emphasizes the godlessness of the setting, while terse dialogue and a moaning, percussive sound design enhance its oppressive loneliness.
The movie’s most striking aspect, though, is Lyn Moncrief’s arresting cinematography, which turns the vast vacancy of the plains into both hostile observer and hellish metaphor. The story might finally slip its leash, but the baleful mood holds firm.