Friday, June 26, 2009
Wind Chill Review
I mentioned this briefly a while ago, but I never got back around to watching it... until last night. I was equally pleased with the movie the second time around, so I figured it would get a review! But what is it all about?
As we open on a college classroom, we find Emily Blunt looking for a ride home for Christmas break. She was going to take a bus, but a friend urges her to look at the ride share board they have posted on campus. She does and finds Ashton Holmes is willing to take her for a ride. As they start off on their journey, he makes a few comments that don't quite add up. He says she looks good in her glasses (she doesn't wear them in public), mentions a school in the area she grew up in that doesn't exist, and asks for directions at a gas station when he should know the way. She gets a bit creeped out by this and he turns off onto a side road in the middle of nowhere. This is where we find out the boy has been a bit obsessed with the girl (they are listed as "boy" and "girl" in the credits, so they don't have a name I guess) and he wanted to get her alone for some quality time. And then things get creepy...
But things don't get creepy between the kids. A mysterious car that leaves no tire tracks runs them off the strange side road. The girl locks the boy out of the car and he leaves to get to the gas station. She then sees a few strange people walk pas the car in the snow, but leave no footprints. The boy comes back and finds a burned down monastery with some strange stuff in it. A sheriff comes by and doesn't treat the kids well, then disappears. A burned man vomits an eel. And finally, without revealing too much of the ending, some, uh, very bad stuff happens.
Cinematography: This movie is very bleak, with long expanses of the road and mountains being the main backdrops. The snow makes for a very draining landscape, almost making you feel tired and unhappy watching it. It sets up shots very well, making the isolation in the Appalachian mountains very apparent. The camera angles aren't anything groundbreaking or terribly impressive, but varied and well executed, making the movie interesting to watch. The mise-en-scene is that of dread the entire time, allowing for the snow and scenery to do most of the work in the tension area. It's a very well shot movie, thus earning it a 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.
Execution: Wind Chill starts off as a pretty traditional story of a boy that's a little too obsessed with a girl and wants to take her away from civilization, but eventually you find it was a misguided romantic gesture. The boy and girl end up sharing some fairly intimate moments in the end and you don't even realize that the movie has turned into a ghost story right in front of you. It's a nice reprieve from the standard of both movies, putting the characters in tension with each other, then with the ghosts. Even in the end though, the tension between the characters is there, with the two never fully trusting each other. The acting is quite good, with Blunt and Holmes bringing genuine performers to the table. Martin Donovan is creepy and disturbing, making the sheriff character the most interesting person on screen. With believable characters and exceptional acting, 4.5 out of 5 is awarded to Wind Chill for Execution.
Sub-Genre Comparison: As a stalker tale, Wind Chill is pretty standard fare. Sort of creepy guy, isolated location, unsuspecting girl. Luckily for the movie, it isn't a stalker tale. As a ghost tale, Wind Chill unabashedly succeeds by setting up a good back story and great tension. As far as ghost tales lately go, it's ahead of recent fair like The Unborn or The Haunting in Connecticut. Wind Chill holds up well with many other haunting films with the notable plot point being that it isn't a haunted house, but a haunted highway. It won't ever compare to something like The Exorcist or The Omen, but nothing really will, so it earns a nice 3.5 out of 5 for Sub-Genre Comparison.
Production Value: The movie was produced by the likes of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, so the budget isn't exactly shoestring. That being said, the movie wasn't backed by a large studio, so it didn't have a limitless budget either. With what it has, Wind Chill does everything successfully, especially in the sparse landscapes making the characters feel very isolated. The special effects are mostly make-up related and above average, but used sparingly. That's not a bad thing, but it makes it hard to judge. There is no gore and very little blood, but the aforementioned eel vomiting scene is pretty gross nonetheless. This is not an effects heavy movie and that's a very good thing in my opinion. The more real a ghost seems, the scarier it is. If you make the ghosts actual actors on screen and not CGI, the performances come through better and enhance the viewing experience. All that considered, Wind Chill gets a nice 4.5 out of 5 for Production Value.
Scares: So far, Wind Chill has been delivering everything quite well, but most importantly of all: will it scare you. The answer is yes, in parts. The movie is very tense and good to set up scares, but nothing is so very scary you ever feel like looking away from the screen. However, the Sheriff character exudes creepiness and the rest of the ghosts make for some interesting on screen horror. The movie stays very atmospheric the entire time, even with a lot of action and you get scared for the characters quite a bit. While it never gets overwhelmingly scary, it remains an intense viewing experience, so it gets 3.5 out 5 for Scares.
And the final tally puts Wind Chill at a solid 20 out of 25. I really enjoyed this movie and it's definitely one of the better horror movies to come out of the states in the last few years. Gregory Jacobs directed this movie and I would like to see him lend his talents to some other horror movies in the near future. He did a great job with a pretty modest budget, so I would love to see more of him. It's a good story with believable characters and an interesting premise. The overall tone works well and the backstory for the ghosts is one that will keep your attention throughout the whole movie. Don't expect a fast moving, action-packed thriller, but expect a moody, atmospheric thriller. And it's pretty cheap!