Wendigo (2001)
By: Devon B. on July 24, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Artisan (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English, Spanish Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Director: Larry Fessenden
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, John Speredakos, Erik Per Sullivan
Screenplay: Larry Fessenden
Music: Michelle DiBucci
Tagline: Some myths are real
Country: USA
My better half was utterly thrilled when I bounded across the video store to announce that there was a movie out now called Wendigo, waving the DVD in question in front of her face. 'This must be about the wendigo!' I yelled. Eyes rolling, she allowed me to rent it. Jokes on her, Wendigo's pretty damn good, and FINALLY one of my movie choices stands vindicated.

I was expecting a fairly standard monster movie when I popped in the DVD, and at first my assessment seemed correct. On the way to a family outing, the father (played by Jake Weber, who now stars in Channel 10's Medium) drives into a buck. Some hunters have been tracking it, and one gets angry at the father. The mother (played by Patricia Clarkson, who went on to star in Six Feet Under) tries to defuse the situation. The family leave, and it seems she may have succeeded. But then the hunter continues harassing the family, creating a very Straw Dogs vibe. After his first display on their home front, the pace slows down, and the viewer is treated to an unsettling, heavily symbolic 'monster' movie.

This isn't a high pitched, frantic flick for the MTV generation, but rather a nice, highly artistic film for people willing to look for layers within a story. The wendigo doesn't even turn up for the first hour, unless you count the statuette the little boy ends up with, and I didn't even mind. The characters are all well fleshed out, and there's a reason for everything in this movie. That's a nice change from films brimming with filler, even if it meant I didn't get lots of monster stuff.

Wendigo has good visuals, generally in the form of sped up motion or flashing movements and cuts. The best of the visuals is the snow that ceases to fall in midair, but there's plenty of interesting stuff on screen. The wendigo takes various forms, first turning up as a tree like figure. The tree thing is okay, but then it turns up as a deer-man. I don't care how hard you try, a deer won't look scary, and it doesn't here. While the story does have a possible reason for the cheesiness of the wendigo's deer appearance, I still think it would've been best to stick to fleeting glimpses, which is ironic because I rented the film to see a silly monster, then ultimately thought the monster should've been cut down.

Wendigo was made by someone who harbours a deep love for the horror genre. In the early scenes alone are references to Jaws, Poltergeist, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I often get accused of making up cinematic allusions, but the director confirmed all of these in the commentary, so for once I can prove it.

Some critics of Wendigo claim it is too artsy. I am not a fan of arthouse movies in general, so I would say it is an intelligent yet accessible film for those willing to give it a watch.
The DVD presents the film at 1.85:1 in a 16x9-enhanced print. The film has specks, but is otherwise quite sharp. There is grain, sometimes heavy, and sometimes effects are used to make the film look washed out, but this appears to be intentional.
Wendigo comes with a 5.1 or 2.0 mix. I reviewed the 5.1 track, and found it to be an enjoyable, subtle listening experience. The full speaker range is mostly reserved for the eerie, swirling wind, until the climax where the wind and score combine to assault the viewer.
Extra Features
The DVD comes with a documentary called Searching for the Wendigo which is made up of costume and animation tests, costume designing, locale scouting, FX work, raw footage, behind the scenes material, video storyboards, working on the score, and alternate footage. I was more interested in the interview with writer/director/editor Larry Fessenden, who mostly discussed his ideas on the stages of filmmaking. It's okay that the interview's only about 10 minutes, 'cause there's also a commentary, where Fessenden talks about symbolism, shot achievements, story elements, and his influences and references. He also mentions that, yes, the car predicament in the opening scene isn't very perilous. The DVD also has the trailer, info on the cast and director (though it's only filmographies for the cast), and an art gallery which appears to be made up mostly of the art from the Wendigo comic book.
The Verdict
Wendigo is certainly worth checking out. It was the antithesis of what I was hoping for and I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and bought it after the initial DVD rental. The extra features found on the Region 1 disc are essential, so this DVD release is highly recommended for those looking to purchase the film.
Movie Score
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