Emma Tammi’s The Wind is based on terrifying true stories. Back in the Old West, “prairie madness” would actually drive people mad. From the isolation to the unfamiliar surroundings, just about everything involved in the day-to-day lives of settlers was part of a recipe for losing your marbles. This should have made for a compelling psychological thriller, however The Wind stops itself short of greatness.
The film begins with a haunting image. As two men wait silently outside an isolated New Mexican house, a woman stumbles out. She’s covered in blood, and holding what looks like it must be a baby. Though the story of this incident will be folded into The Wind much later, I must say beginning a film like this is quite a bold move.
Essentially, the rest of the story plays out as a story of two couples meeting in the middle of nowhere, grappling with isolation and survival. Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) and her husband Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) are delighted when Emma (Julia Goldani Telles) and her husband Gideon (Dylan McTee) move onto the adjoining farm. This new addition brings the grand total of their settlement’s population up to four. As the men bond and work the fields, the women do the same at home. Lizzy is much more accepting and hardened to this lifestyle, while Emma struggles with the lack of church and the isolation.
The major problem with The Wind is not the premise or the performances. As I’ve already mentioned, the mere idea of prairie madness is one to inspire nightmares. The two female lead actresses are exceptional and carry the film far beyond the script asks them to. No, the issue with The Wind is the structure of the plot.
The film’s unsettling first frames are not the beginning of the story, but rather near the middle of it. Starting a film there, working backward, then forward again is an often-used structure for telling a tale in a non-linear way. But The Wind doesn’t just have that one deviation from the line. It skips around and yanks the audience to various places throughout their relationships. All of this wouldn’t be a problem except that it means that any sort of tension in the building of horror is regularly ripped away and we’re constantly shown the outcome of a scene before the scene itself. It’s also unclear if various continuity errors are intentional or so-subtle-you-miss-it temporal shifts.
The Wind could have been much better if editing and creative timelines took a step back, and allowed the harrowing story and stellar performances to be the focus of the terror. As it is, the film tries far too hard to tell a tale that needs no frills.