Day 41: 'Wendigo'

Erik Per Sullivan in 'Wendigo'After the cold and dark despair of Day 40's Winter's Bone, I was starting to think I was cursed when indie horror film Wendigo, or as the Indian shaman in the movie pronounces it "Wennnnn-diiiii-go," started off its first 10 minutes in similar fashion.

Maybe it was my buddy Alex's fault. The last time I brought him along for a film was for Splice and that turned out to be a seriously disturbed and disturbing sci-fi horror. Plus, Alex has a weird habit of using the phrase "Shibbity Shabbity" to explain or unexplain away every crazy phenomenon known to man.

Anyways, I selected Wendigo on my 100 days trek because I remembered reading a review way back in 2002 that made it sound like a smarter than average psychological thriller. I also remembered that it starred one of my favorite actresses, Patricia Clarkson (veteran of a million acclaimed indies, and the lady who played Kevin Costner's wife in The Untouchables). The plot as I recalled it was about a family on a weekend trip to upstate New York, who accidentally hit a deer with their car, and then are trekked by a beast known as the Wendigo - a creature that's half-man, half-deer and all supernatural spirit.

The story brings our likeable urban family - consisting of Clarkson, caring dad Jake Weber and regular kid Erik per Sullivan - in contact with a group of redneck hunters, a curious-acting sheriff and said Indian fellow, who tells the boy about the ravenous Wendigo who haunts the forests, and then gives him a wooden, mini-totem of the thing...awesome...thanks, man.

Unlike Bone, this indie picks up the pace/action in its third act. Viewers get an eyeful of a real Wendigo and some surprise twists. What both films have in common (besides a rapturous reception at Slamdance/Sundance, and lots of shots of snow) is an uncomfortable tension and naturalistic, believable acting. Effects and gore are kept to a minimum. You'll be scared simply because your mind fills in the blanks, and because you'd rather not see human beings ripped apart by Mr. Wendigo. Afterwards, you'll likely want to stay away, too, from cabins for a few weeks.

I love - as long as there's company - a campfire movie that combines monster classics a la Jaws with the "hide! run faster!" pacing of genre horrors a la Halloween. How about you? Which are your faves? Comment and share below!

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