FrightFest VOD film review: Wind Walkers
Originality in execution2
Appeal to non-die-hard horror fans1
Ian Loring | On 28, Aug 2015
Director: Russell Friedenberg
Cast: Zane Holtz, Glen Powell, Phil Burke
Watch Wind Walkers online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / TalkTalk / Eircom / Google Play
Wind Walkers is a fascinating beast on paper. A story that looks to create horror out of a mixture of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Native American legend, it has the makings of a stand-out horror. The film begins with a man speaking to camera about the eponymous Wind Walkers, spirits of fallen men seeking vengeance against the white men who stole their lands, but who, in practice, seem to attack soldiers previously based in the Middle East, where it could be argued they were also seizing land which didn’t belong to them.
The subtext here is of great interest, so it is a shame that the film rarely seeks to match the innovation of that idea; when it tries to build on it, it becomes palpably worse. The Wind Walkers themselves are murkily constructed villains. Where they actually come from doesn’t seem to tally with what we are told at the start and what they actually are is something not to be spoiled here, but it is fair to say that they take the form of a wholly derivative horror trope of which we’ve seen far too much in the last 15 years. Once their origins are revealed, the film becomes a simple siege movie, as a dwindling number of trapped potential victims argue amongst themselves, all performing to type; the troubled, brooding lead, the twitchy paranoid guy with an itchy trigger finger and the respected elder gentleman who lives only to make speeches all live and die in the exact ways and order you expect, as if by clockwork.
It is clear that writer/director/actor Russell Friedenberg has love for the horror genre. The look of the creatures is somewhat unoriginal, but they have a feral nature which brings one or two chills (Rudy Youngblood’s lead walker, in particular, has a nice line in intense staring leading to sudden violent movement) and the atmosphere conjured by the director becomes appropriately apocalyptic as it goes on. A larger budget may well have allowed him to stretch his legs more, but he makes decent use of a fairly small ($2 million) sum and bravely depicts most of the action in daylight, where scares are harder to come by – although the overcast setting brings an air of desperation to proceedings.
His writing is less successful than his direction: the derivative nature of the plot clangs up against some poorly executed references to other horror films (one reference to The Thing is flat-out terrible), resulting in another example of a genre film-maker trying to appeal through referencing better work than doing good work themselves.
At 91 minutes, it doesn’t quite outstay its welcome, but the intentions of Wind Walkers are more successful than its execution.