Fantastic Fest Review: THE WIND Causes Paranoia On The Prairie

This supernatural western has the right tone but not enough terror.

Taking liberties with historical accounts of women driven to madness by forces of nature on the plains, The Wind enlists supernatural elements to convey its tale of paranoia on the prairie. Telling a tale set during the late 1800s, director Emma Tammi and writer Teresa Sutherland employ the desolate vistas of the Western frontier as a stunning backdrop for their female-centric western. While isolating the small cast of characters in this wide-open landscape creates a certain atmospheric dread, the narrative’s intentionally slow build never quite delivers on thrills.

Beginning with the blood-soaked death of a newborn baby, the tension unfolds as Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard) flashes back to the moments leading up to the event. When new neighbors arrive in the cabin nearby, the simpler times when she and her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman), occupied the land on their own become a thing of the past. Lizzy forms a bond with the unhappily married Emma Harper (Julia Goldani Telles), although their friendship is born more out of proximity and generosity than necessity. The two female leads carry the story with their dramatic portrayals of the increasingly complex friendship, and as women slowly coming unhinged from the utter boredom of domestic duty and solitude.

Jumping back and forth, the structure is sometimes confusing, with only Lizzy’s change in appearance and demeanor suggesting where we are in the timeline. The pacing is often frustratingly slow, even in its attempts to deliberately build to an exciting conclusion. Dialogue suggests there’s something “wrong” with the land, followed by Emma’s quick plunge into madness after discovering she’s with child. Flashbacks to Lizzy’s own experience of encountering a presence when left alone while expecting suggest that pregnancy acts as an invitation to the entity, but this is never clear. Lizzy’s ownership of a pamphlet entitled “Demons of the Prairie” provides some minor insight into the origin of the supernatural presence, but the majority of horror and suspense is depicted through the film’s sensational sound design. Texturing the titular wind so that it sounds alive instead of mere white noise adds an uneasiness and intensity to the darker moments of the film.

The production and costume design are the real stars here. Showcasing a predominately female crew, including production designers Hillary and Courtney Andujar, set decorator Elsbeth Mumm, and costume designer Kate De Blasio, everything from the dresses to the furniture and quilts in the cabins are authentic to the time period. These details greatly enhance the tone of the simplistic lifestyle on the plains.

While comparisons to The Witch will be unavoidable, given the tonal similarities and female driven story, The Wind’s final act doesn’t deliver the horror in the same vein. While intriguing in its take on the dynamics between women and how the forces of nature influence their psyche in such an isolated setting, the narrative moves too slowly and is too abstract in regard to the terror it attempts to portray.