A lot of new genre stuffs have revealed themselves during the latest bout of prolonged downtime here at the Wop; some come with much acclaim attached, some are looked on less favorably, all will be examined thoroughly over the coming weeks here. Tonight's entry, a gratifying indie film shot on Long Island, that I'd looked forward to seeing from the first time I caught the trailer (most of the time, a film's trailer will tell you everything you need to know about a production and whether that film is worth your while or not... so pay attention to the coming attractions!), the second effort by director Jack Heller, effectively utilizes a creepy, slow building narrative interwoven with solid performances from a cast headed by Kevin Durand and Lukas Haas, atmospheric cinematography upon a palette of dreary fall color that allows for quality scares reminiscent of classic seventies era horror, which it achieves effortlessly on more than one occasion, only running into some slight budgetary resistance at times during the final reel. Let's 'ave a look, 'ey? "You'll never...bag me... now, Nuge...", and with that, the buck passed. Sheriff Shields (Kevin Durand) is a man struggling with the sudden death of one of his sons and a marriage that's being read its last rites, while acclimating his deputy, Donny (Lukas Haas), imported from the city, to the tedium of small town existence in Maiden Woods; only a routine call to a local horse breeder who's lost one of his animals proves to be more than a simple forgotten gate latch for the lawmen, who are soon faced with inexplicable, muddy bipedal hoof tracks turning up throughout the town. Some of the more superstitious townsfolk in the isolated community believe the recent intruder to be a wendigo, of local Indian folklore, and when one of a crew of missing loggers turns up dead twenty feet up a tree, the Sheriff is forced to further investigate the horrifying possibility, while maintaining the belief that the whole affair is someone's idea of a sick, elaborate prank to his partner, while juggling custody of his remaining son with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Susan (Bianca Kajlich). It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Save your letters of disapproval, Hindu readers, as no real cows were stripped of flesh in the making of this film. As he's faced with more disappearances and brutally clawed barn doors, Shields begins to piece together a nightmarish scenario: Driven from its natural habitat in the north by increased logging operations (if you get pantsed by a wendigo, blame the corporations, maaaan.), the creature has descended upon Maiden Woods in a tireless search for new residence, and gotten progressively hungrier along the way, and about to be trapped there by an impending, crippling winter storm. Seeing the potential problems on the horizon, the Sheriff seeks backup from the National Guard, but the coming storm will delay their arrival, forcing him to gather the thirty or so townspeople in the church (put 'em in the steeple!), and defend them, NOTLD-style, from the inevitable final assault by the mysterious monster. Will he succeed in protecting his loved ones, rescuing the people, somehow managing to retain his sanity in the process? No spoilers for you, in this case, as the ending, which may or may not contain a seventies-esque genre twist, is something you're definitely gonna want to groove on for yourselves. "Who buys three boxes of Monster Cereal and a pack of Magnum XL's?", thinksSabina Gadecki. Kevin Durand, a Canadian actor who can be seen in things like X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), and even Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), is excellent here. You'll remember Lukas Haas as little Samuel from 1985's Witness, though he's been very busy all along, showing up in stuff like 1988's Lady in White, Mars Attacks! (1996), and Inception (2010). Interesting to note, director Jack Heller based his only previous effort, the 2011 thriller, Enter Nowhere, in the woods as well. I haven't seen that one yet, but it's safe to say he's on to something here. This is an anxious little horror movie, indeed, based on actual events that transpired in 1855 England (that have come to be known as "The Devil's Footprints"), that's pumped full of well-developed trepidation and widely distributed, pot boiled tension, as well, where other lesser films might ladle on excessive dollops of grue in hopes for genre audience approval. Despite a slight letdown due to some ill-advised and semi-woeful cgi effects in the finale that I'm willing to overlook, this is the kind of indie horror flick I love to sit down to. With less cg and slightly more gore perhaps, we might be looking at four Wops on the scale, but as it stands, three seems like a better fit for Dark, a good old fashioned monster movie. Check it out! Going to a Wendigo-go:"Brrrring me sssssome Doan'sssssss Pillsssssssss! ...and Sssssscissorfight ticketssssssss, pleasssssssse..."