Living at the edge of the 19th century frontier, husband and wife, Isaac and Lizzy, live in complete seclusion as far as the eye can see until another couple, Gideon and Emma, settle a mile away in a nearby cabin. Unused to the punishing conditions the frontier might yield, the St. Louis bred Gideon and Emma find living without the comforts of urban life challenging and rely on Isaac and Lizzy’s strength and experience for survival. However, the frontier’s harsh reality produces a malevolent presence that flows through the prairie, stalking and toying with the settlers, only revealing itself to Lizzy while the others act if nothing is going on or just acting strange. The sudden and violent death of Emma and her unborn child send Gideon and Isaac on a two-day ride to nearby town, leaving Lizzy to face the isolated terror alone with only a double barrel shotgun that never leaves her side, but in her strife, Lizzy learns more about her newfound neighbors and even unearths some troubling truth about her husband that even further segregates Lizzy from the rest of reality.
If there wasn’t one more single thing to demonize, director Emma Tammi conjures up “The Wind” to mystify the western frontier. As Tammi’s debut directorial, penned by short film screenwriter Teresa Sutherland, the supernatural film’s dubbing could be a rendering of a long lost Stephen King working title, but all corny jokes aside, “The Wind” really could from the inner quailing of Stephen King’s horror show mindset. The film’s produced by Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath under their U.S. label, Divide/Conquer, and released in 2018. The same company that delivered the horror anthology sequel “V/H/S: Viral,” Isa Mezzei’s sleeper thriller “CAM,” and the upcoming, second remake of “Black Christmas” with Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes. With a premise dropped right into the fear of the unknown itself and with some powerful production support, “The Wind” should have soared as an unvarnished spook show come hell or high noon, but the jury is hung waiting on the executioners ultimate verdict regarding Tammi’s freshman film.
Five actors make up all the cast of “The Wind,” beginning with the solemn opening night scene with frontier men, Isaac Macklin (Ashley Zukerman of “Fear the Walking Dead”) and Gideon Harper (Dylan McTee of “Midnighters”), waiting patiently outside a cabin door until Isaac’s wife, Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard of “Insidious: The Last Key”) walks out, supposed baby in hand, and covered in blood. The subtle, yet chilling scene sets the movie from the get-go, sparking already a mystery at hand and coveting most of the focused cast. The two characters unannounced at the beginning, swim in and out of flashbacks and toward the progression of Lizzy’s embattlement with “The Wind.” That’s not to say that these characters are any less favorable to the story as “Slender Man’s” Julia Goldani Telles shepherds a vivid description of subtle lust and extreme instability that rocks a strong and self-reliant Lizzy living priorly a stale reality. There’s also the introduction of a wandering and warm pastor that leads to chilling reveal questioning any kind second guesses there might be about Lizzy. All thanks to veteran television actor, Miles Anderson.
“The Wind’s” non-linear narrative teases two courses, one working forward and the other backwards to a catalytic moment that becomes motivational for majority of characters in the prior days and the beginning of the end for one in particular. Though the latter centralizes around Lizzy’s flashbacks and encounters with the evil spectral wind, her descent into madness conjures more violently through the discovery; it’s as if her current state of mind has been stirred, whirled, whipped, tumbled, and agitated from the past that keeps lurking forward into her mind’s eye. Tammi pristinely conveys a subtle message of undertones from the past and present that chip away at Lizzy’s forsaken reality, leaving those around her delicately exposed to her untreated alarms to the nighttime wind of a menacing nature. Teresa Sutherland’s script to story is illuminate tenfold by the wealth in production that recreates the rustic cabins and the callously formed hardships of the western frontier and if you combine that with the talents of cast, “The Wind” will undoubtedly blow you away.
Umbrella Entertainment delivers Emma Tammi’s “The Wind” into the Australian DVD home video market and presented in the original aspect ratio, a widescreen 2.35:1, that develops a hearty American untrodden landscape for the devil to dance in the wind. Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief’s coloring is a bit warm and bland to establish a western movie feel and really had notes of a Robert Eggers (“The Witch”) style in filmmaking with slow churn long shots and a minimalistic mise-en-scene, especially for a similar pseudo-period piece. Eggers invocation solidified itself more so in the Ben Lovett’s crass and cacophony of an instrumental score that adds more to the creepiness factor while remaining relatively framed in the time era. The Umbrella Entertainment’s release goes right into the feature without a static menu so there are no bonus features to dive into. “The Wind” might feel like an unfinished piece of cinematic literature, but remains still a damn fine thriller that seeps ice cold chills into the bones and ponders the effects of loneliness and trauma that’s nearly puts this film into the woman versus nature category, a premise that will be hopefully concluded by a upcoming book adaptation.
Just off the rough stormy shores of Nova Scotia is a remote island where American Tom Doherty becomes the newly hired lighthouse caretaker in search for good money. Already overwhelmingly cloaked with the lighthouse’s creepy adjacent housing and being forewarned by the island’s infamous legends, an isolated Tom experiences the abilities of dark force first hand and doesn’t know whether the forces are real or madness has swallowed him from the extreme isolation. As Tom continues the work, he discovers clues along the way that suggest the island holds a nefarious past involving murder, suicide, and cannibalism, but an old bible with a list of names is the key that has the potential to unlock all the island’s mysterious doors and can also be Tom’s unfortunate undoing if he maintains being the lighthouse caretaker.
Based off the Angela Townsend book with the same title, “The Forlorned” is the 2017 silver screen adaptation of Townsend’s mystery-thriller from “Dead Noon” director Andrew Wiest who has helmed a jolting, supernaturally visual and auditory accompaniment to Townsend’s literary work. To maintain authenticity, Townsend co-wrote a script alongside Wiest and Ryan Reed that’s riddle with an ill-omened story leading audiences down a path of insanity-ladened darkness. But what exactly is “The Forlorned?” Forlorn has two definitions: 1) pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely 2) unlikely to succeed; hopelessness. Either of the disparaging definitions, if not both, can be used to described “The Forlorned’s” eerily gloomy story that’s saturated in a motif of burdensome loneliness and relentlessly bashes the concept into our heads in a constant reminder that no one can ever escape the island even in postmortem. The character Tom is the very definition of the forlorned. Whether because of due diligence or a dark force, his role of caretaker is a permanent position allotted to him unwillingly by a sadistic, secret-keeping demon that seeks to swallow more unfortunate souls.
Colton Christensen inarguably shapes the role of Tom Doherty into his own with a solid solitary performance for more than half the film. Christensen also, for much of the last ten minutes of the story, had to systematically break away from his character in order to forge a combative persona to Tom and while Christensen does the job well for one character, shouldering a second didn’t suite the actor’s abilities despite a total embrace of character and a few jabs at his own humility. Wiest has worked with Christensen prior to “The Forlorned” and has seemed to continue the trend of using his own entourage of actors with the casting of Elizabeth Mouton (also from “Dead Noon”). Mouton’s character is briefly mentioned near the beginning as a little girl of a previous caretaker, but her adult version only makes the scene in the latter portion of the story to provide a better clarification and exposition into the demon’s background. Also serving exposition as story bookends and peppered through as emotional support is Cory Dangerfield’s “Murphy,” a sea-salty old bar owner who liaisons with the lighthouse committee and can make a mean clam chowder. Murphy hires Tom to do the restoration and caretaker work and while Murphy initiates Tom existence into the fold, Murphy, for the rest of the film, serves as slight comic relief and, in a bit of disappointment, an unfortunate waste of a character. I also wanted Benjamin Gray, Shawn Nottingham’s priest character, to be built upon and expanded more because the character is a key portion that, in the end, felt rushed with quick, messy brush strokes in order to finish painting the picture.
At first glance, Townsend, Wiest, and Reed’s script screens like a typical, if not slightly above par level, haunting where Tom encounters sportive spirits, ghastly visions, and a slew of ominous noises inside a time-honored lighthouse home, but then a twist is written into play, pitting Tom against a masterminding demon whose conquered many other bygone caretakers and whose the epicenter of all that is sinisterly wrong with the island. The demon, who has taken the form of a man hungry hog, lives only vicariously through the camera’s point of view, never bestowing an appearance upon to Tom or even the audience, but referenced numerous times by island locals and boisterously given hog attributes whenever the demon is near. The concept fascinates with this demon-hog thing kept stowed away deep inside the isle’s bedrock even if the dark entity never makes a materializing appearance, but where that aspect thrives in “The Forlorned,” a pancake thin backstory for the demon goes simply construed with a slapped together account of its languished two-century long past and wilts the demonic character wastefully down with backdropped uncertainly, powerlessness, and puzzlement that’s forlornly misfired. There’s no deal with the devil, no selling of the soul, no medieval rite that gives the demon-hog it’s power; it just turns into an evil spirit out of greed.
Andrew Wiest’s production company, Good Outlaw Studios, presents “The Forlorned” that found a distribution home in Midnight Releasing, the fine folks who released “Blood Punch” and “WTF!” “The Forlorned” is available on DVD and multiple VOD formats such as iTunes, Vimeo, Vudu, Xbox Video, and Google Play. Since a screener was used for this critique, a full review rundown of the technical specs will not be provided and no bonus materials were featured on the disc. Director Andrew Wiest and his cast and crew entourage are able bodied participants in assembling a good, entertaining, and sufficient indie mystery-thriller brought to fruition out of Angela Townsend’s story with the author’s pen ship assistance. With a little tweak here and there on the antagonistic demon-hog, “The Forlorned” might have necessarily escalated into a richly dark territory of a more volatile, blood thirsty spirit that’s scribed to have racked up body after body, century after century; however, the fleeting chronicle of how the demon-hog came to be a malevolent being leaves a bittersweet aftertaste on a premise that started out spooky and strong.
Megan Mullen, freshly out of college life, feels a strong urge to pick up and move from her comfortable California family home to the new surroundings of New Jersey. She can’t explain her why to move, but she quickly finds an apartment in East Rutherford where she settles in easily, creates a video journal for her friends and family back home, begins her new job as a school teacher, and gains a wonderful boyfriend. Everything seems to be going perfect for Megan until unexplainable, seemingly paranormal, acts happen in her apartment: doors open and close mysteriously, objects move on their own, and her soul doesn’t feel like her own. As she continues to her video journal, she further believes her apartment was once rented by April, a young girl similar to Megan who ended up brutally murdered and found on a riverbank, and that she is haunting her. This is Megan’s story told through a documentary revealed by her friends and family to the supernatural speculation of what causes Megan’s torment and downfall.
In the spirit of new releases on or around horror’s big night of Halloween, Director Ruben Rodriquez’s 2012 paranormal mockumenatry “The Death of April” comes to life on for the first time on DVD from MVDVisual. Similar to the “Paranormal Activity” series, the pseudo documentary about a dangerous, abode dwelling spirit or spirits bombarding their supernatural havoc upon helpless inhabitants. While the release time is appropriate and has a modest appreciation for creepy atmospheres, “The Death of April” fails to bring something new to the genre table and I can’t see the easily overlooked “The Death of April” being the catalyst to spark more interest in a ghostly genre that becomes overpopulated, by the major studios, during the month of October.
Backed finically by the Mojo Creative Group that was founded by Ruben Rodriguez, the mockumentary introduces a modest talent of actors and actresses including Katarina Hughes as Megan Mullen. Hughes, in her first feature film, delivers the much needed energy to a slow, stagnant script, but the contrast exaggerates Katarina’s overzealous happy-new-girl-moving-to-a-different-coast attitude. Her co-stars Adam Lowder as her brother Stephen Mullen, The Knick’s Chelsea Clark as her best friend, RayMartell Moore as her boyfriend Tim, and Stephanie Domini as her mother, who by the way looks almost the same age as Megan, sold their story, their take, of Megan’s downward events. That being said, Lowder, Clark, Moore, and Domini couldn’t lift the script out of the deep trenches of the uninteresting and mechanical motions.
The script, which was also written by Ruben Rodriguez, could be considered to contain two interpretations, one literal and the other more concealed. The more literal interpretation is my least favorite of the two. Megan’s family constantly disowns the fact that she might actually be haunted by an apartment spirit; in fact, her family and friends negatively pelt her with denials and accusations, never once considering Megan’s theories of an aggressive April spirit. This is where the script becomes redundant as Megan’s brother Stephen and also her mother Stephanie reiterate over and over about how close their relationship with Megan was and how she had firm family roots in California and also proclaim the excuses of how she’s looking for attention or not coping with a new surrounding very well. Rodriguez’s script suffers by not displaying alternate ways in exploring how her family and friends should handle Megan’s paranoia or paranormal problem. Even when they’re is undeniable video proof with the video starting to distort and capturing uncontrollable movements from inanimate objects, nobody believes Megan and that would drive anybody to the loony bin. The second interpretation with, perhaps, a more underlying metaphor is that Megan is slowly going nuts. Her brother Stephen does mention her previous slightly creepy issues with Megan before her big impulsive move to the east coast. Almost like her impulsiveness and her energy-filled antics seemed manic and her sanity practically dissolved when she moved thousands of miles away from her support group in California. Megan’s mind could have invented April and her family, knowing that she’s had weird issues in the past, chalks this up to just being another mental issue. Of course, the video diary proof, even with her brother and friend witnesses, nearly excludes the second theory and that her “desire” to move far away from her family stems from April pulling her in that direction.
“The Death of April” won’t make waves on the PKE meter. The picture quality of the MVDVisual and ITN distribution DVD release looks clean considering that most scenes had intentional video quality posterization and distortion for the web and home video diary appearance. The front cover art is slightly misleading with a foreboding, rundown gothic style house in the background when actually Megan lives in a sectioned off duplex apartment in a suburban neighbor of a New Jersey home that doesn’t look necessarily evil at all. Also, who I’m guessing is spirit of April on the front cover with a Ouija board in her clutches sports sexy booty denim shorts as if to lure a certain audience to the release. We’re not sold on “The Death of April” as too many before it’s time have come across and planted their seed and sprouted firm in place.