28th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Wind Walkers’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Zane Holtz, Glen Powell, Kiowa Gordon, Philip Burke, Johnny Sequoyah, J. LaRose, Rudy Youngblood, Castille Landon, Christopher Kriesa | Written and Directed by Russell Friedenberg

Wind-Walkers---creatue-3

From the films from actor/writer/director Russell Friedenberg that I have seen, it seems – at least to me – like he has a fascination with three things: Native American culture; the human psyche and the personal demons we all have; and the idea of the stranger among us (even if that “stranger” is familiar to us). With Wind Walkers he combines all three subjects in a story that follows group of friends and family as they descend into the Everglades swamplands for their annual hunting trip, only to discover that they are the ones being hunted by a malevolent entity tracking them through the Everglades…

Now the idea of supernatural spirits is nothing new in Native American culture, or in horror movies. However Friedenberg poses an interesting question in Wind Walkers – are the hunters being hunted by a legendary Native American curse about to unleash its dreadful legacy of thirsting for colonial revenge by claiming more souls? Or is it something more complex? Is the entity courtesy of Jake, a soldier returning home who may be suffering from more than PTSD. Could he be possessed by something brought back from his tour of duty in the Middle East – a demon of war so horrible and deadly they are unaware of its devilish presence.

OK, let me just get this out of the way first. Wind Walkers frustrated me to no end! Frustrated me because of the slow pacing (this is the epitome of a slow-burn film), frustrated me because of the incoherent plot. To be honest I was frustrated most by the fact I could see there was a truly tremendous movie buried beneath its lacklustre surface.

Essentially inspired by Night of the Living Dead… Well, when I say inspired I mean much more than that. In Wind Walkers we have a bunch of hunters holded up in a hut going stir-crazy, with a radio occasionally blaring out notices about an “infection” spreading across the globe and telling people to avoid getting bit. And outside the hut there’s something, or someone out to get them. Sound familiar? It should do. But despite the plot being little more than a pastiche of George A. Romero’s classic movie, theres still a lot to like about the film.

For one there’s the setting. The Florida Everglades has never looked so uninviting! I’ve been to the Everglades and they’re beautiful, especially from the back of a swamp boat, but here it looks like even the trees could kill you. Then (now I know I said the plotting was incoherent at times) but the twist? The reveal? The uncovering of Jake’s true nature and the what is really going on in the swamplands is fantastic – turning Wind Walkers into a Predator-esque action-horror. That I LOVED. And then there’s the cast. When all hell breaks loose, the hunters turning on each other whilst trying to stay alive, Friedenberg’s cast comes alive. Especially Phil Burke, who manages to steal the entire movie with a crzed rant that maes him seem as dangerous as the monsters waiting just outside the door!

Definitely a film that gets better as it goes along. Wind Walkers takes a long time to find its feet and, frankly, even longer to get to the point – but when it does hit its stride, the film improves ten fold. Well except for the soundtrack. That’s just overwrought all the way through!

** 2/5

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