Indie auteur Larry Fessenden's horror film WENDIGO is an intelligent and bone-chilling psychological sojourn to a nebular domain where Native American myth and reality converge. It tells the story of an urban couple and their son Miles who, during a winter getaway to rural upstate New York, inadvertently provoke a prolonged fracas with an unbalanced local resident. In the midst of the feuding, young Miles learns to cope with his ensuing anxieties and fears by placing his faith in The Wendigo, a wrathful spirit he has learned about from a mysterious Native American shaman. But is the ancient spirit real, or is the boy's faith naively misplaced?
Though produced on a meager budget, WENDIGO offers top-notch writing and direction from Fessenden; excellent cinematography, despite the 16mm-to-35mm blow-up technique used; outstanding acting, especially from the three principals; and simple but very effective special FX that should put more than a few big-budget Hollywood productions to shame. The beautiful musical score, by composer Michelle Dibucci (1982's CREEPSHOW), is just this side of New Age stylistically, yet it is flavored with enough Native American elements that it cleverly echoes the film's dichotomous cultural subtext, while at the same time being ethereal enough to compliment the spooky and otherworldly atmosphere required by the basic plot.
WENDIGO serves up a subtle and tasteful nerve-tingling horror that is a refreshing alternative to the gore-laden horror movies that Hollywood often cranks out these days. And like a lot of great art, this film requires that the observer exercise the ol' gray matter a little. The younger crowd, therefore, will probably feel WENDIGO is too slow and lacking in blood-and-guts FX, but an audience with more mature tastes will really enjoy it.
The DVD offers an crisp, clean digital transfer with good sound, as well as some interesting extras such as a behind-the-scenes featurette and a feature commentary from WENDIGO's creative and somewhat eccentric director. Well worth the reasonable cost of admission!