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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

HubrisWeen 3, Day 23: Wendigo (2001)

Written, directed and edited by Larry Fessenden

Patricia Clarkson:  Kim
Jake Weber:  George
Erik Per Sullivan:  Miles
John Speredakos:  Otis

Larry Fessenden has a reputation for horror films about man, nature and the world (I'm quite looking forward to checking out The Last Winter from him, especially because Ron Perlman's in it). That's quite a subject to tackle when you're making movies--or doing anything else in the world of art. I imagine there are some critics who would say that's a bit highbrow for someone to try and tackle in a low-budget independent horror movie about a deer monster and they'd be right if this was just a movie about a deer monster. But it's about lots of other things, including the effort it takes to be a good family man (or woman, or child) and the hunger and desperation that can drive people to do horrible things to themselves or each other.

But don't worry, you do also get to see a deer monster before the end credits roll.

The opening credits run over views of  a pair of old beat up action figures (looks like the Lon Chaney, Jr. wolf man and Voltron) while a child's voice provides sound effects for their battle. And that's exactly what's going on in the back seat of a family's car, with young boy Miles keeping himself entertained during a drive by doing all the sound effects of the two toys' battle while his father George drives and his mother Kim navigates. Of course, when the first dialogue that's in English is the dad saying he's sure they're not far from where they want to be, that's not great news. Onward they drive for a considerable time, through snow-covered roads that wind through the woods. George snaps out of his Zen driving trance when he realizes  he's about to hit a deer and winds up getting stuck partly off the road with the rear tires spinning fruitlessly. A trio of deer hunters happen across them moments later; apparently they were tracking the buck that just got smacked by the family Volvo.

One of the hunters mercy-kills the buck with a pistol and says they've been tracking it for eighteen hours (I guess George gets the assist for the trophy room plaque). But Kim is incredibly pissed that the hunter shot the animal right by the car--she's shook up about having been in a collision just a moment ago and doesn't like the idea of Miles witnessing what he just did (and like most people isn't thrilled with gunplay six yards away from herself and her child). George asks the men where the nearest open auto garage would be, and gets largely ignored in favor of them grumbling about the deer's antlers being damaged from the impact with George's car. Like many protagonists in a horror movie, this family is out far from their home grounds--and more specifically, out in the woods where they will have to walk some distance for help if they can't get a tow. Or maybe those three strapping hunters could help shove the car back on to the road. You know, if they wanted to assist.

Kim tells her son that the hunters are out culling the population, killing the weakest members of the herd (which helps the herd as a whole survive the winter). She tells her son it's still sad, but it's part of the cycle of life. They wait for the tow (unlike most people in a horror movie, George's cell phone works) and people-watch the hunters for lack of anything else to do. The apparent leader of the hunters, Otis, complains about the broken antler and George apologizes for hitting the dear and tells the hunters that he'd appreciate them not hanging around the car toting guns and being hostile. Even the other two hunters think Otis is out of line, incidentally--I would have expected the movie to draw the expected "city folk versus country folk" lines between the characters and it doesn't. Otis looks furious when the other hunters say he can only be credited with the final shot when the deer was no longer capable of moving.

Time passes and the family is in their car in the black of night playing Twenty Questions while the hunters load the deer carcass in the back of their truck and pose for a shot with a cigarette in the deer's mouth as a memento. As soon as the tow driver arrives, Otis tries to wave the man off by hooking a chain from his pickup to the family's car (claiming he could have done it at any time if they'd just asked--George I and think that's probably not really the truth). The driver asks if the family is headed for "the old Stooky place" and wave George away from his own car while it gets pulled out of the spot it was stuck. The tow driver charges $40 for the outcall and Otis says he expects $20 for his contribution to the towing effort. George presses the issue, because that's the smart thing to do in this situation, and refuses to pay. Kim hands the guy a double sawbuck and tells her husband that they're leaving and that's that--it's worth the money to her just to not be late and stuck and surrounded by gun-toting yahoos any more.

The journey continues over a river that George refers to as "the moat before the castle" and they arrive at "Richard and Annie's house". Whoever they are--the family knows 'em by the first name but the viewer has only heard of them in this context and about thirty seconds ago. The house is empty, dark and cold--whoever Richard and Annie are, the family wasn't expecting to find them there or they'd be acting differently. The cold is explained by a bullet hole in one of the living room windows; George digs the slug out of the wall and just tells Miles that the window was broken, not shot. While he's taping over the hole in the window, Miles asks his dad if he was scared or not when the hunters confronted them and George says he was pretty shook up because of hitting the deer, and that it affected his dealings with the other men. It's probably pretty telling that George is wearing a sweater with deer knitted into the pattern--he's a city guy (the hunters referred to a New York City reservoir nearby as George's drinking water supply) trained in the arts of social negotiation and surrender rather than dick-measuring contests. Out here he's considered the weak member of the herd and there's undoubtedly some resentment towards him for having the kind of money that it takes to hang out in a cabin for a while just to relax and decompress from the pressures of making a ton of cash and having lots of respect in the rat race.

Speaking of pressures, the first thing George does when the lights are on and the window is patched is grab a stack of flash cards and work on Miles' spelling skills. George is appropriately supportive when Miles gets his words right and starts goofing around a bit. If the cards are going to turn out to be a Tarot prediction of what's coming up in the movie (which they might be), it's probably significant that the words that came up were "together", "separate" and "appetite", in that order. George and Kim relax with a half a glass of wine and Miles determines that there's no TV signal this far out in the sticks. In lieu of watching some movie he's never heard of, George suggests that it's time to build a fire. There's a hatchet out by the wood pile, and one assumes that it'll come into play later. Miles reaches out to hold the wood steady as his dad gets ready to chop, and thankfully George's reflexes are good enough that injury is averted.

But then Otis drives by and honks to get George's attention, saying he's got permission to use the private road that the cabin's on (and honestly, I think he's just stopping to screw with George more than anything). Miles notices that the bed of Otis' truck is empty, so his friends didn't let him keep the deer. Over dinner, George thinks that it's odd to let someone use your own private road while Kim thinks it was possibly just the neighborly thing to do--after all, if you're living out here on the regular it's a good idea to get along with the people around you. While discussing their friends Annie and Richard, Miles' parents fill in a little back story--apparently Annie thought it'd be cool to retire young to the countryside in upstate New York and Richard missed the vitality of the urban scene. And then George offhandedly mentioned "some weird incident" in the past that led Richard to stop going to his cabin in the woods for a while. Kim never heard anything about it and George can't really remember any details--perhaps he wasn't listening too hard when his friend referred to it back in the past. It can't have been that odd or the family wouldn't be up here now, I bet. George seems a little bit high-strung to willingly go to a weird old place with his family for fun.

Miles is apprehensive over dinner, and there's a wonderful shot choice when he spills what's been bothering him. The shot of Miles saying "that man knows where we live" switches from the dinner table to outside the window in the dark, with the camera slowly moving towards it like a polite Canadian take on Sam Raimi's hyperkinetic cinematography. While Miles' parents give him semi-contradictory takes on why people go hunt in the woods and get keyed up about it the camera glides closer and closer to the back of Miles' head, this time inside the house and approaching the family at the dinner table.

Later that night the family is playing some kind of baffling fast-paced card game that George wins by getting rid of his hand first. Miles is exiled to bed and the camera passes by some pictures Miles was drawing of deer and people; some times the deer has been shot and some times the deer is much, much larger than the humans around it. Miles refers to the drawings as "nothing" when his mother asks what he was sketching to keep himself busy earlier, though, so the viewer knows about them, and Miles, but not his parents--at least not now. Miles, like lots of kids in movies, wants to do a monster check before going to bed and Kim obliges him. Sounds sensible, honestly, if it's the first night in a new place and there was some stressful stuff going on earlier. Miles shows that he's a sensitive young boy by asking if that deer had a family. Kim says that sad things happen some times but that there's a balance in nature. The animals have to adjust to their circumstances like anything else. George decides that a quick Nosferatu impression is just what the situation needs but Miles isn't fooled by it for a second, and just tells his dad that it isn't funny without getting freaked out. He does ask for the bedroom door to be left open and the hall light on, but he's young enough that this is probably just a temporary adjustment to a new place rather than a continuance of a permanent state of affairs.

Which means that there's nothing for Miles to do but listen to the clock ticking and the wind howl until his closet door opens and he sees a kid with a pistol inside pointing the gun at him and shooting; it was (probably) a dream, not a vision, but Miles winds up staying up late reading a book on Native American culture rather than trying to go back to sleep. The pitures are full of blood and thunder and animal masks, so it's gonna be a long night. While Miles fails to get to sleep, Kim and George are downstairs drinking wine and relaxing with some tunes on the stereo and candles lit in the room. Kim wants to know what's up with his general tension; she alludes to things going poorly at a photo shoot back in NYC, but that isn't it. George just felt like there was no possibility of human connection with Otis back on the road and it's been getting him since he hit the deer. Kim wonders if his masculinity is feeling threatened by the encounter, which is probably the real deal. George wondering if there's any way for him to meaningfully communicate with Otis or anyone like him leads into Kim climbing onto his lap and restoring his confidence as the fire burns down low.

They're too wrapped up in themselves (and each other) to notice Otis peeping in through the window at their lovemaking. He's close enough for his breath to hit the window glass. But nothing happens at that point. Instead, around 2:30 in the damned morning, Miles has a nightmare about Otis showing up with a gun, thumping noises in the attic, and blood dripping down from the ceiling. He explores the house and wakes his mother up walking around. George is still out cold at that point and misses the conversation entirely.

In the morning, it's time for a grocery run into town and also the first time the viewer gets to see a shot of the "cabin" that the family is staying in--it's a two-story house with a screened-in porch and a detached garage; it's considerably more house than Otis and his friends are likely to have, and this is just the temporary home for George, Kim and Miles for a couple of weeks while George takes a break and gets his head right, then goes back into the big city. I can understand why Otis might feel resentful (especially because George did more to the buck with his station wagon than the hunters did with their rifles).

In town, George takes a couple pictures of the town (and one of a cop adjusting his balls while standing by the roadside) while Kim and Miles hit the local thrift store in a shut-down pharmacy building. He's supposed to make his grocery run for curry powder and milk and then pick his wife and son up. I don't know if it's telling that the tiny grocery store up in Phoenicia, New York is going to have curry powder or not--maybe I'm reading too much into the people living in town permanently versus the city folk who come in to vacation (but expect to have their foreign spices in all the grocery stores). The thrift store shelves have lots of toys and puzzles on the shelves--it looks like this is a little town that knows some of its money comes from outsiders who view the surroundings as a nice change of scenery but not a place to live forever. I kind of expected to see a bin of Mr. Mystery game books on the shelf, but didn't spot any in the montage of products (Fessenden's camera seems more fascinated by toy guns of various types and frontier living as depicted by the toys rather than a noir detective).

While perusing the display shelf of knick-knacks at the back of the store, Miles' eye is drawn to a carved stone piece that looks like a bipedal deer-man. The suddenly appearing Native American guy behind the counter explains that it's a depiction of the Wendigo, a creature that is part of natural world, made of wind and trees and beasts, and part human as well. A mighty spirit that can change shapes, attack without warning, and consume its unlucky victims with an unstoppable hunger. Which is probably just what Miles needed to hear after a night of bad dreams. The Wendigo is always hungry, according to the thrift shop worker; it is a slave to its hunger, always eating and getting bigger as it feeds, but getting hungrier as it gets larger. It's unstoppable as well, but Miles wants to know if it's "bad" rather than being instantly afraid of it. The Native American man telling him the story says that nothing from the natural world is evil, but it's still smart to be afraid of some of the things out there--especially angry spirits (which the Wendigo implicitly is). He tells Miles to take the statue after the kid says he believes the story, because nobody believes in spirits any more. Not believing in something doesn't mean it isn't there, of course--there are plenty of doctors willing to testify that there was no link between smoking and cancer for a check, but that doesn't make them right. The last piece of exposition is given here--"He who hears the cry of the Wendigo is never the same again".

Kim missed out on the entire lecture about Wendigo legends, and the woman at the cash register says the figure is five bucks. She also says that nobody else works in the store so there wasn't an Indian man to tell Miles he could keep the figure. Like virtually every other kid in a horror movie, Miles is telling the absolute truth about what's happened to him and the adults in his life don't believe him. Kim doesn't want to make a scene and tells Miles he has to give the figure back but then decides it looks neat and talks the cashier down to $4.00 so she can take the thing back to their winter house. The figure was inside a closed display case that opened from the back, though, and there's no way Miles could have gotten it himself. Oh, and when the car pulls away Miles sees the Native American man walk out the front door of the drug store. If he's a spiritual apparition, he's one that's wearing a flannel shirt and a hunter's winter snow suit. Miles asks his mom if she saw the man, which she didn't. But she echoes that man's words by saying that just because she didn't see him it doesn't mean nobody was there. Kim also says she believes her son as long as what he's saying is true, which puts plenty of pressure on Miles not to lie. Thankfully, he is being totally accurate. Unfortunately, that means that the weird happenings around the cabin is probably Wendigo-related.

There's a montage of the scenery in town as George drives home from the shopping trip, and the Native man's speech about the Wendigo plays over shots of a lumber yard full of felled trees and a gun store billboard--something about never being satisfied with what has been taken and what has been stockpiled to feed the hunger. There couldn't be anything about American society folded in to that message, though, because genre films are never vehicles for social commentary. There's been more than one flickering montage of images from books (mostly Native Americans depicted in the book Miles was reading earlier, but also one of playing cards as well), so let's just assume that this montage is also meant to communicate something to the viewer.

Oh, and Otis is sitting by the roadside sharpening his gutting knife with the deer carcass strung up from a frame as the family drives by. George thinks that it's unsettling to see the guy everywhere they go, but Phoenicia doesn't look like that big a town--if there's only a thousand or so people living there, it makes sense that you'd see a lot of the same faces when you leave the house. He also says that Otis is like Boo Radley with his omnipresence, but Kim points out that Boo Radley was a good guy in the end (and a recluse, too, if I'm remembering the book correctly). And back at the house, Kim (a therapist in her working life) diagnoses her son as someone lying for attention because George is never paying attention to him. She also tells her husband that he's constantly angry from his work and that Miles isn't sophisticated enough to realize that his father isn't mad at him. That leads to his attempts to get more attention by acting out (although Miles is a really low-key Movie Kid; in the hands of a lesser director I'm sure he would be throwing constant screaming fits or weeping for no reason).

Kim doesn't realize that she and George are talking about their son in a normal tone of voice and that he is likely to hear everything they're saying (whether or not he understands it). Which I'm sure will add to the slowly increasing family friction. George cuts the conversation short by saying he needs to call a coworker back in the city, but promises to go sledding with Miles later on. While Kim and George look around upstairs (both of them wondering why Annie has decided to decorate with a stag-antler motif) and the spirit of hunger comes up again. The reservoir that serves as drinking water for New York City was created artificially, according to a pamphlet that George is leafing through. In 1907, an existing town was flooded over as part of the construction process. Which means that the Indians were displaced for settlers, who got displaced so that city folk could get more drinking water, and now whoever owned the land that Richard and Annie built their vacation house on got displaced for that as well. It's a slow and endless cycle.

Kim and George are just starting to get snuggly upstairs when they hear their son yell "No!" downstairs, but when they find him looking out on the porch at the melting snow the only thing he can articulate is that he felt sad. Kim tries some of her therapist mojo on him but she doesn't come up with any results. The nascent argument between Miles' parents is nipped in the bud when Kim says it's probably time to go sledding rather than have a fight and everyone agrees. George calls his colleague back in NYC, and finds out that he has to do a reshoot that he was hoping he wouldn't have to do. It's frustrating enough that the clients don't really know how to articulate what they want from him, but they want George to cut his three day weekend short to go fix a problem with the pictures that he doesn't know how to fix because they said things were "too dark" without saying if it's the photos need to be better lit or higher contrast, or if the tone of the campaign is what needs fixing. When George says the clients don't own him, whatever the other guy says makes him modify the statement to "they don't own me till Tuesday". He brags to "Chas" at the other end of the line that he's taking his son sledding in the countryside, and then imitates a monster as he walks into the room to take his son out in the beautiful Catskills countryside.

George isn't the only one tethered back to his life in the big city; as soon as her husband and son leave for their day Kim's pager goes off and she tells her patient on the other end that she thought they weren't going to call on the weekends any more. This is also the point--about sixty percent of the way through the film--that the audience learns Kim, George and Miles' last name is McLaren. She does return the call and talks the person through their difficulties, though. And while she is simultaneously doing that and working on dinner, she notices a hole in the cornmeal sack (which has a prominently displayed red Indian head for a logo, just to continue that motif) and judging from the hole in the window lining up with that cornmeal bag there's been a second bullet fired into their place from outside.

During the therapy call, Kim gets another call from Richard, who she called to get some information about their neighbors, I think, but while talking to Richard for all of 30 seconds her therapy client calls back and she loses the call from her friend. I haven't used call waiting in more than a decade but that scene brought all the unique frustrations of it back.

Off in the woods, George quotes Robert Frost to his son as they trudge off to find the sledding hill and Miles asks his dad what a Wendigo is. Turns out George has never heard of it. Miles gives the executive summary of what he remembers from the possibly-not-human Indian guy who told him about it, and George says that the Wendigo goes after bad guys, so Miles--a good kid--has nothing to worry about. This shot features the barely-distinguishable figures of the pair in one corner of the screen while trees extend from the bottom of the frame past the top. It's one of the most striking shots in a very-well photographed movie and goes back to the theme of nature being overwhelming and a bit frightening to the people who find themselves in it. George explains to his son that myths help people explain a terrifying and incomprehensible world, working a level Miles can understand by mentioning Mr. Freeze and Yoda as fictitious characters that work for evil or good. At the top of a hill surrounded by forest, there's some mismatched horseplay between George and his son and then it's time for a conversation where George tries to explain to Miles about feeling bad about bad things that happen. He says it's good to feel bad about things like the deer being killed the day before, but that it's important to put things behind you in time. He also says that it's possible to see even the worst things in a positive way if you try hard enough. Considering that there's the possibility of a deer-wind-human spirit in the woods, I'm betting that Miles is going to get a chance to put that into practice soon.

The antique sled (with metal runners and a steering rope) works well, but George falls off partway down the hill and Miles steers into a relatively gentle stop against a tree at the bottom. When he goes back to find his father, George is lying still on the ground in the snow. There's a spray of blood next to him on the ground, red against the white of the snow (which recalls the spray from the deer that Otis shot in the beginning of the film). Miles hears an animal call while a fog blows in (on an otherwise bright day). Something pursues him in a cloud of fog, leaping into a tree with a body that looks like it's made of gnarled branches.

He wakes up in the night, outside, with his mom looking into his eyes and wondering where George is. When they go back to the spot where George fell off the sled, there's only blood on the snow and nobody there. Kim and Miles go looking for George in the middle of the night in unfamiliar woods; they wind up going past a redneck target range with plenty of bullet holes in metal targets but nothing to act as a backstop (and one single sign with WARNING -- RIFLE RANGE painted on it, not that Miles or George saw anything while they were trudging to the sled hill). Otis and his two friends are standing around a trash barrel fire and it looks like a horrible one-in-a-million accident may have occurred. Or, even worse, something on purpose where Otis can claim plausible deniability for shooting someone he didn't like. I was expecting a more supernatural threat, although it might be that Otis' envy and dislike of the city folk gave the Wendigo its purchase in his psyche.

Kim wanders near the rifle range, which also has an outdoor butchering stand where someone is methodically cutting apart a deer carcass. Kim tries to explain herself to the hunters (an older man, a woman, one of the trio from the previous day an a kid about Miles' age) and they offer to help if she needs another tow. Kim flees with Miles and the hunters go back to their work. One of them wonders what Kim's deal was, and another says "excitable city people" can't be easily understood.

Kim and Miles keep searching as best they can in the dark, but there's just about no chance of just stumbling over George where they are. Then Kim spots a bloody footprint and runs back to the cabin where George has collapsed outside the front door. Miles runs in for a blanket and George tells his wife he thinks he's been shot (and blames "those fucking guys", although we just saw one of the previous hunters and he was polite and friendly--looks like it's Otis that's the problem). George wants to get in the station wagon and get to a hospital in nearby Danbury, hoping that he can stave off shock because he knows he's on his way. Miles goes back outside with the blanket and sees the Wendigo standing over his father, but the apparition fades in the headlights of the station wagon. Everyone gets in the car while Miles remembers the warnings from the Native guy at the thrift store. George explains what happened to him as he was shot off the sled during the drive, telling his wife he's "only half here" while they make their way to the hospital.

Kim calls Information to find out where the hospital is in Danbury and only gets the number instead of directions; they arrive in time and a group of orderlies get George out onto a gurney and inside while a sheriff's car pulls up right behind the McLaren station wagon. As he's wheeled into surgery George tells Miles to take care of his mom and tries to absorb as much of his family into his memories as he can. The sheriff comes inside to see what Kim can tell him, but all she knows is that her husband was shot. She thinks it might have been Otis (based only on what she knows about the guy and that he's creepy; she doesn't know that he was peeping on her having sex the night before). Seconds after the sheriff says they don't know for sure that George was shot a nurse comes by to say that he was indeed shot once in the side with a rifle, and that his liver has been injured. The doctors think emergency surgery is the way to go, but as in all things in contemporary life there's paperwork to sign.

One more piece of information gets dropped into place in the hospital. The sheriff mentions that Otis Stooky is the guy Kim is thinking of, and that the winter cabin for Richard and Annie is the house where Otis grew up. He wound up not inheriting the house after his mother died and has been resenting that for years. The sheriff thinks that it's just a horrible accident with George in precisely the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. Miles goes wandering in the hospital and looks in on the room where his father's on the surgical table. The team is so focused on their jobs that they don't notice a child walking into the room. He has a vision of death and the Wendigo and his father screaming for help and then faints, then gets treated to a vision of the Wendigo running through the woods, death, menace and butchered meat thanks to his subconscious.

For the first time over the course of the film the movie shifts its focus away from the family. The sheriff is going to Otis Stooky's place (which is an old trailer with a plywood extension nailed to it--no wonder he was so resentful) and looks around for the man. Otis turns out to have plenty of deer antlers and skulls around in his place too, but it's much more The Hills Have Eyes than Town & Country the way he decorates with them. The sheriff calls out to see if Otis is there (first just calling himself Tom Hale, then saying he's the sheriff--and it's not till the second time that Otis comes out to see what's going on). The sheriff says he needs a statement from Otis about what happened with the deer accident the previous night. Otis eventually agrees to go through the paperwork motions with the sheriff, grumbling about the city jerks who think they own the town. But when the sheriff lets it slip that he was at the hospital earlier it puts Otis' neck hairs up and he refuses to go to the station.

The sheriff raises the ante, saying that Otis shooting at his childhood house is an open secret in the town and he was willing to let it go because everyone realizes what a raw deal it is to lose your house, but his patience is running out. Otis declares that he'll go along but needs to get his coat from inside; instead he grabs a hammer and smashes the sheriff in the head for lying to him, then goes back inside for his winter coat and a pistol. An animal howls as he steps outside, leaving a second person to lie in a pool of blood in the snow that day. His own psyche's taken a hell of a beating, and he starts having hallucinations (or visions) of George, crowned with antlers, whispering to him that he wants his liver back. Which leads to Otis pushing his rattletrap pickup as fast as it can go in the dark and on snowy roads, losing control and driving into a stand of trees after seeing the Wendigo in the road in front of him.

At the same second Otis smashes into the woods Miles' eyes snap open at the hospital, where his mother informed him that he fainted but he'll be all right. And then Otis wakes up with something charging at his car and battering at the door. He makes his way out of the truck and staggers off, seeing the shape of the Wendigo in the woods coming for him. He has no idea what he's seeing and thinks it's the Devil, then empties his gun at it to no effect. It pursues him through the woods, running fast enough to blur and flushing Otis out of the woods directly in front of another cop car (and it's probably telling that the being chased him out of the woods and into the direct path of his pursuer like it was flushing a game animal out of the woods).

Back at the hospital, a sympathetic nurse tells Kim that there was nothing they could do in the end and she walks off down a hallway, sobbing and dressed in black as Miles watches her, numbed by the thought of what's happened that day. Which means that he's the only witness there when a team of orderlies brings another gurney in, with Otis banged up but alive...and right past the Indian who gave Miles the icon of the Wendigo in the thrift shop, while Miles' father's words echo in his head about looking at even the worst things in another way thanks to myths and stories.

Well...I didn't know what to expect from my first Larry Fessenden movie (as I've mentioned in other HubrisWeen reviews, this marathon is a great way to watch things I haven't gotten around to yet when they slip into the right spots on the alphabet). It's a low-key, naturalistic, slice-of-life horror movie with the cinematic sensibilities of an indie film--most horror flicks I've seen don't have montages of nature or images of Native Americans as presented in art or commerce to drive their thematic points home. And I'd almost say it's possible for the Wendigo to just be Miles' psychological coping mechanism for the shattering trauma of losing his father randomly out of nowhere except that he isn't the only character in the film to see it, and that Otis doesn't even know what it is when it shows up.

It's also very telling that Miles sees the Wendigo as a being made of twisted-together branches that can walk around like a wood golem or animated sculpture while Otis sees it as a snarling beast. The elder who told miles about the Wendigo told him that it's not an evil spirit, but potentially an angry one so Miles sees something made of nature--the aspects of it that are more wind and tree than man or beast. But Otis sees something snarling at him in fury and hatred, and it pushes him into at least temporary madness--and ensures that he will be facing earthly justice for killing George and the sheriff. None of which are going to bring Miles' father back, which is the real horror of the situation. Just because a resentful dickhead with a gun felt like it, there's a dead man and a grieving wife and son and the jerkoff with the rifle didn't see anything wrong with threatening, scaring and murdering someone. Because Otis thought he deserved something that he didn't have, and blamed the person who was living there for having it.

Which is a particularly American kind of horror story, and one that we'll probably keep hearing about at schools or movie theaters or malls or conventions. But at least with this movie there's a different way to look at the worst things that are happening; a myth people tell each other to make sense of a cruel and indifferent world.

I can't believe we're almost done with HubrisWeen. Click on the banner to see what the other four participants chose for their film that starts with W in our 26-day long review blogaround.

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