So this is what The VVitch has wrought? We get one killer movie about pilgrims who are haunted by monsters and also own a (black) devil goat, and four scant years later we get another about pioneers who are haunted by a monsters and also own a (white) devil goat. If Robert Eggers damp and cold pilgrim horror left an evil goat shaped hole in your heart way back in 2015, The Wind, with its desolate imagery and life or death family drama, is here to fill it. Kind of.
Set in a mysterious, isolated field somewhere in the middle of the U.S., Lizzy and Isaac Macklin have built a home for themselves. They’re hardy people, the kind that can do a little bit of everything because they must. They’re soon joined by the Emma and Gideon Harper, who don’t lack for money, but are in over their heads when it comes to surviving (and thriving) out on the Prairie. Lizzy and Emma become fast friends and even faster enemies. Are both women losing their minds? Or is there really something out there in the darkness? Something that feeds on doubt and jealousy and pain?
If you eat up westerns and pioneer tales the way the Donners ate up each other, there’s just enough homestead horror to make The Wind worth your time. Emma Tammi’s dark tale shines when it lets the harsh environment do the talking. The aforementioned wind is a constant presence, grabbing the ends of hair, twisting the hems of skirts and flattening brush across the landscape. Watching it is exhausting and living it feels impossible, but Lizzy (expertly played by Caitlin Gerard who lets every centimeter of her face do the talking) almost manages to make it look easy. As the story lurches back and forward in time, she is a constant presence who seems unusually steady despite being haunted by a prairie demon hellbent on ruining her life.
Gerard plays Lizzy so cooly feral, so wild yet stoic, that it’s impossible to believe she’s loosing it. Even as she sees visions of dead people and is visited by a shadow monster, she does what she needs to do. She locks the door. She shoots the devil goat. She tries to convince her husband that they need to leave, but in the long tradition of men not believing their wives when they explain there’s a ghost in the house, he refuses. This is The Wind‘s chief problem. Despite its fantastic use of location and haunting lead actress, it backs away from an otherwise lean and mean story, and instead relies on overused tropes to coast to an unsatisfying ending.
The vast loneliness, the everyday hardships, and a faltering mental state are scary enough. The Wind doesn’t need dead girls in bland zombie makeup and a CGI shadow monster to make Lizzy’s life feel like a waking nightmare. It already is one.