Returning home from his latest tour of duty with a heavy prescription for Prozac and haunted by his experiences, Kotz (Zane Holtz) returns to his hometown deep in the Florida swampland and, after an awkward reunion with girlfriend Lexi (Castille Landon), he discovers that best bud and former comrade in arms Matty (Rudy Youngblood) has gone AWOL at Matty’s father Neelis’ (J. LaRose) Thanksgiving barbecue.

Reuniting with friends and family, Kotz joins Neelis’ traditional hunting trip and ventures into the Everglades with Neelis, Jake (Kiowa Gordon), Kelly (Phil Burke), David (writer/director Russell Friedenberg) and alpha male Sonny (Glen Powell). With storms on the way and radio reports of an outbreak of unexplained violence spreading like an infection across the country, the group converge on Neelis’ cabin deep in the swamp only to find it ransacked. Settling in for the night, the guys drink, play cards, laugh and joke, just like old times but Kotz can’t relax, is plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks to his time overseas when he and Matty were captured by the enemy and something…very bad happened to them.

The next day, the group find their hunt sabotaged and the butchered corpse of a wild boar left in the cabin. But when Jake disappears, suspicion falls on Kotz and as the group dissolves into paranoia, recrimination and violence, Lexi arrives at the cabin bearing a dire warning from Neelis’ wife. And outside, as the wind blows through the trees, something hungry stalks the night…

Opening with an introductory monologue/info dump (that verges on parody) by a random elderly Native American (of course…) whose warnings of the wind walker (or wendigo), an evil spirit that travels on the wind, possessing it’s victims and turning them into murderous cannibals bookend the film, Wind Walkers riffs on The Deer Hunter and The Thing to deliver a tense, atmospheric little chiller, Friedenberg turning the paranoia up to 11 and getting the most from his cast of largely character actors like Burke and LaRose, both underplaying nicely, with Holtz a suitably tortured hero who isn’t sure how much of what’s going on might be in his head while the landscape itself becomes almost a character, primal, unforgiving and raw.

While the allusions to the USA’s misdeeds in the Middle East and Iraq and their parallels to the white man’s conquest of the Americas lend the film a political undercurrent and the references to an epidemic of violence related to the infection that’s spreading through the group spread by returning soldiers go largely undeveloped, Wind Walkers never overreaches itself, Friedenberg keeping the film tight, low-key and claustrophobic. It doesn’t do anything new or original but it’s an effective little slice of horror that leaves you hungry for more.

Frightfest London review: Wind Walkers
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)

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