The film and entire story manages to orchestrate under the impression of a very long episode of “The Twilight Zone”, and carefully takes its time setting up the characters which, writer Larry Fessenden (who also directs, and edits) probably knew would ultimately affect the audience in a deep way. Hardcore horror fans probably will eventually become uneasy and impatient, but I was willing to sit through the entire film, because as the story progresses, I was very engrossed. Fessenden manages to skillfully craft a story of such sophistication, that no commercial Hollywood writer would have been able to think of it. Fessenden also manages to create some truly endearing, charming, and very realistic characters that the story revolves around, and I was very captured by the essence of the family.
Fessenden doesn’t rely on cheap horror devices and gore in this film, but shows that the true horror is that of which humans can inflict on one another. The theme of family is very heavy in the movie (somewhat blending and underplaying the horror motif into the backdrop) showing the McClaren’s, and in many aspects of the Native American legend underneath the town’s history. The characters are truly excellent and manage to become brought to life by a stellar script from Fessenden who creates characters that everyone could relate to in one way or another. No doubt, the characters are also brought to life by three incredible actors, as well. Kim, played with incredible grace and realism by Patricia Clarkson, is the free-spirited wife and mother who is very lonely at times, and yearns for her husband to bond more with his son.
Erik Per Sullivan gives a great wide-eyed performance in this as the innocent and incredibly adorable Miles, who witnesses all the horror unfolding before his eyes. Sullivan performs this role without flaw and sheer magnetism. He’s often a very quiet and innocent character who’s very close to his father and often yearns for attention by fabricating stories. Jake Weber gives a standout performance as George, the workaholic father who buries himself in work and rarely ever notices his son. The entire plot is simply just a runaround, displaying Fessenden’s gifts for writing and directing.
The directing by Fessenden is excellent and he manages to truly magnify the setting of the movie with tones of blue and white giving the sense of warmth and love, then manages to switch gears and relies on tones of black and red when conveying horror or terror. Fessenden is an excellent director, managing to show off his skills for the creepy. Like M. Night Shyamalan, he tends to rely more on isolation, sound, and shadows for full shock and horror effect rather throwing creature effects and blood in our faces. What made me marvel at the movie even more is that Fessenden downplays the horror. He never shows Wendigo except for four scenes, which is masterful because when we manage to catch the glimpse of it, it becomes truly effective and breathtaking.
Of course the entire movie goes on for long periods with nothing but character emphases and glimpses into these array of incredible characters which sets up the heart-wrenching and ultimately creepy finale which will leave many watchers pondering what the “Wendigo” truly was, and what it’s intentions were throughout the film. Fessenden plays one last trick on the audience by never revealing the answer, and that alone, made it all worth watching. This is truly a hidden treasure among the masses of cookie cutter horror flicks in the bunches. I cannot gush enough about Fessenden; Hollywood, take notice of this guy. This is a realistic, creepy, and heart-wrenching film that is a lot of fun to watch. Get this if you can, it’s a gem.