Definitely seek out this found footage film.
It’s no secret that my favorite monster is the Wendigo — the Algonquin cannibal spirit said to inhabit the frozen forests of the American Northeast. The idea of a malevolent presence turning unwary travelers into flesh-craving monstrosities fascinates me to no end. It’s an entity rife with horrific, cinematic potential! Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks so, given that the legend is seeing a surge of cinematic depictions over recent years.
Antlers, Pet Sematary, The Retreat, Disney’s The Lone Ranger (yes, really), every other movie by Larry Fessenden — its grip on pop culture’s throat has slowly been tightening, jaws ready to sink icy fangs into the imaginations of viewers now and to come.
Jake Robinson’s the latest creator to adapt the myth with his upcoming found-footage film The Wendigo. I covered its production months ago, so I was beyond excited when Robinson let me check it out early. Now that I’ve watched this tale of unheeded warnings and antler-adorned stalkers, I have some feelings about it. For those of y’all that want me to just dish out the main course, I got you: it was good!
Read the full synopsis:
“After a social media star disappears in the woods of North Carolina, his friends are set to figure out what happened to him. Ignoring the legend of the cursed land was only their first mistake.”
As far as found footage goes, the film looks great. Robinson’s utilization of multiple cameras for different viewpoints, while nothing new, is used effectively and manages to expand the sense of storytelling a good bit. It makes narrative sense as well: the characters are streamers aiming to post videos of their search. So of course they’re filming everything with high-quality cameras. Oh, speaking of characters…
None of the primary cast is particularly likable, at least to me. This isn’t directed at the acting — the actors do well with what they’re given — but at their characterizations. Or lack thereof, in some cases. Granted, this could very well be intentional on Robinson’s part, given the modern-day trope in horror and beyond of selfish, attention-seeking social influencers. In any case, the characters are either jerks or not well-defined, which isn’t as much of an issue as it sounds. The runtime is relatively short — the edit I watched clocked in around 60 minutes, with the final cut being around 68 minutes — so it never really wore on me that the main characters aren’t exactly deep.
My biggest gripe with the flick is that the Wendigo isn’t shown that much. Which is a shame because when it does reveal itself, it looks great! I understand that the whole Jaws-style “keep-the-monster-hidden” technique is useful for getting the best mileage out of low-budget SFX. However, Robinson’s take on the Wendigo is so well-crafted and unique, that I think they could have gotten away with giving it more screen time. I’m sure that’ll be the case in an eventual sequel, so we’ll see.
Overall, this is a solid found-footage creature feature, especially for a first-time director. It’s appropriately scary when it needs to be — with some genuinely chilling imagery — and while a lot of the Wendigo’s background isn’t explored, what is explained is faithful to the lore. Although… Robinson did add a tidbit tying the spirit to Nordic legend, so I’m curious to see where that goes.
Until next time…