Wind Chill is a metaphysical and supernatural horror movie directed by Gregory Jacobs. Emily Blunt dons her best American accent and teams-up with Ashton Holmes to carry this taught thriller, reminiscent of Dead End, After Dark’s Penny Dreadful, and other stories that revolve around a haunted highway and/or an ill-fated road-trip.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Two college students share a ride home for the holidays. When they break down on a deserted stretch of road, they’re preyed upon by the ghosts of people who have died there.
Damn, what a dull and oversimplified synopsis! Thankfully, Wind Chill is deeper and much more nuanced than this pittance of a summation implies.
Blunt and Ashton are the “two college students”, nameless, and only referred to in the credits as “Girl” and “Guy”. Is this an attempt to make their situation appear universal or simply a means of foregoing any significant character development? On the one hand, namelessness implies a classic scenario, something familiar and repetitive—and this definitely meshes with the subtext. On the other hand, giving these characters names would have absolutely increase our empathy towards them, creating a deeper sense of closeness. I’d hypothesize that Jacobs intends for us to see these characters as symbolic, rather than identifying with them on a personal level—which is strange for a film that puts so much emphasis on the relationship that develops between these strangers.
Wind Chill could very well have been inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence, a theme central to the philosopher’s writings. Eternal Recurrence is basically a perversion of reincarnation. Instead of beginning a new life after death, Nietzsche’s concept postulates we’re doomed to repeat the exact same existence, detail for detail, into infinity. He refers to this idea as the “Burden of the Eternal” and even “The most burdensome thought”.
Eternal Recurrence is a subversion of the view many people maintain about an afterlife, mainly that it will be paradise (or at the very least, a neutral existence). The horror of Eternal Recurrence, the burden, comes from facing this concept, accepting the idea that life is not only inescapable, but also unalterable. In this sense, human existence is little more than a prison.
Act 1 of Wind Chill skillfully sets up an uncomfortable mood. Sure there are clichés: The road-trip with a stranger, the ominous rest stop, the inconsistencies in the driver’s statements that lead us to question his true motives. But it’s not as though Jacobs uses these familiar troupes out of laziness or lack of imagination; rather, the use of these clichés is a way of leading us astray as to the true nature of the evil they will encounter. What we expect is hardly what the film delivers. A scene where Blunt is momentarily trapped in a rest stop bathroom is significant and impactful, creating a strong sense of foreboding and vulnerability.
Act 2 is where the real terror lies—and terrifying it is! Wind Chill has some of the best ghostly creepiness I’ve experienced in a long time. From the shadows that slide around in the periphery to mangled manifestations, this film is absolutely packed with shivers. Some of the ghosts appear almost zombie-esque, blistered and mummified by extreme cold. Nothing is loud or over the top, rather chills are induced with the subtlety of Gothic literature.
My main problem with the film is that Act 3 is too long and way too sappy. Too much time is spent on a budding romance that feels completely unlikely—even in this incredibly unique situation. So much time passes that the terror of Act 2 fades away; the pace slows to such a crawl that even an action-packed conclusion feels sedate.
What I like best about Wind Chill, however, is the way it breaks some of the standard “rules” regarding supernatural horror. Normally, when a mortal does battle with an otherworldly entity (especially at a haunted location) they are almost exclusively doomed (like the family in Dead End or the film crew in Grave Encounters). There’s that idea that, once the phantoms get you on their own turf, you’re just fucked; this often creates a situation where the viewer gives up on the characters (as they have no future) and begins to lose interest (especially if the film drags). Without giving too much away, Wind Chill presents a scenario that is as maddening as eternity, yet potentially escapable. We never lose hope for the duo; we remain invested until the bitter end. Oh yeah, and it was also fun seeing Ned Bellamy (who I always remember fondly as Eddie in the classic Seinfeld episode: Fatigues) in a small but important roll.
Wind Chill is decent horror that probably won’t offend those with more delicate mainstream sensibilities. However, it may very well lack the punch that Horror aficionados crave. The cheesiness of the 3rd Act will probably make everyone groan.
2.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Gregory Jacobs|
|Produced by||Graham Broadbent
|Written by||Joe Gangemi,
Steven A. Katz
Section Eight Productions
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures (US)
Sony Pictures Releasing (UK & IRL)