Wind Walkers (2015)
Wind Walkers (2015)
Director: Russell Freidenberg
Cast: Glen Powell, Rudy Youngblood, Zane Holtz
Synopsis: With one of their own missing, a group of friends travel to the remote Florida everglades where they discover that an ancient, malevolent curse is tracking them.
It’s a shame that the quality of Wind Walkers, the third film from independent director Russell Friedenberg, is so uneven, because when it’s good it’s strikingly so. Unfortunately, it suffers from an unconvincing narrative that glosses over too many pertinent details, and a tendency to fall back on the kind of over-familiar scare tactics that don’t really work anymore. It’s set in the Florida Everglades, into which a group of hunting buddies venture for their annual orgy of Alpha-bonding. The film’s focal point is Sean Kotz (Zane Holtz), a US marine no longer considered fit for active service following a harrowing experience in Afghanistan which has an unexpected influence on the strange goings-on that soon overwhelm the group. Other members of this not-so-happy band include Neelis Kingston (J. LaRose – Insidious, Now You See Me), the father of Kotz’s comrade, Matty, who has gone AWOL since being rescued from that traumatic episode, and his other son, Jake (Kiowa Gordon), Sonny Childe (Glen Powell – The Dark Knight Rises), a gung-ho local boy who has some poorly-explained beef with Kotz, a bearded disposable body named Sturgis (Phil Burke), and his stubbly counterpart, Samuelson (Friedenberg).
The trip starts badly when the men discover that the cabin in which they plan to stay has been trashed, but grows immeasurably worse when, the next day, they find a gutted hog hanging from a tree, and a slaughtered animal carcass in the bath. Then, just as the radio with a weak, wavering signal begins issuing sketchy reports of some kind of fast-acting virus affecting most of the world, Jake disappears, virtually within sight of Kotz. Because of his troubled state of mind and the fact that he’s unable to explain how the boy disappeared, the other men can’t help wondering whether he might be involved in some way.
It turns out that Matty (Rudy Youngblood), Kotz’s AWOL comrade, is running around the Everglades having become infected by an unspecified virus in Afghanistan, which kind of poops on the idea of mythical Wind Walkers unleashing Nature’s wrath on the hapless hunters, but which does hint at the inevitable repercussions of the US presence in lands that don’t belong to it. Whatever political undercurrents might be at play here, though, Wind Walkers is really just a mash-up of Predator and The Thing with a dash of Deliverance (or Southern Comfort) thrown in for good measure. And there’s nothing wrong with that: fresh ideas are few and far between, particularly in the horror genre, which is perhaps the most forgiving when it comes to rehashing old ideas. At least Friedenberg strives to create an ominous, brooding atmosphere, although having done so, he trips himself up with a clunky flashback fifteen minutes in which takes us back three days for a little scene-setting just as most horror aficionados will be expecting the movie to start getting down to the nitty-gritty. Other problems include the sketchy history between Kotz and Childe which goes nowhere near to explaining the depth of animosity between them, and the way that Kotz’s girlfriend, Lexi (Castille Landon) just appears as the apparently untouched prisoner of one of Matty’s victims in a shack in the middle of the Everglades.
Wind Walkers does have some effective moments, though. The seething wounds of the diseased victims are pretty special, as is the slithering of something barely seen beneath their skin. And there’s a creepy scene in which Kotz stumbles upon a diseased old man who delivers an eerie monologue before insisting that his visitor feeds upon him. In keeping with the good/bad nature of the entire film, Wind Walkers does manage to find some traction in the final half-hour, generating a fair amount of tension as the dwindling band of survivors begin to fight amongst themselves, before falling flat on its face with a rushed and anti-climactic finale.
(Reviewed 28th September 2015)