by Hope Madden
There are not enough horror westerns. And why not? The whole Wild West thing feels like a terrifying, isolated, dangerous adventure—especially for women.
Director Emma Tammi’s first narrative feature, The Wind, pulls together all those ideas and more into an absorbing little nightmare.
Lizzy and Isaac Macklin (Caitlin Gerard and Ashley Zukerman, respectively) are relieved to see smoke coming from a distant chimney. The only other cabin for miles has been empty a long while, and the prairie does get lonesome.
But companionship and burden go hand in hand for Lizzy, and company won’t chase away all the demons plaguing this harsh land.
Working from a spare script by Teresa Sutherland, Tammi develops a wonderfully spooky descent into madness. Throughout Lizzy’s isolation, Tammi swaps images onscreen from present moment reality to weeks earlier, to months earlier, to a present-day hallucination or specter and back again. The looping time frame and repetitive imagery turn in on themselves to create a dizzying effect that echoes Lizzy’s headspace.
Gerard spends nearly as much screen time alone as she does with co-stars, and her turn is haunting. There’s nothing showy in this performance, Gerard slyly betraying one emotion at a time through the character’s well-rehearsed stoicism and reserve.
It’s a feat of imagination and execution for both Gerard and Tammi, turning this small production—only five principle actors and two sets—into a hypnotic ordeal. Tammi’s confident pacing and Gerard’s masterful performance ensure a gripping trip through a merciless slice of prairie life.