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STUDIO Entertainment One

• Some trailers that I have not figured out how to access but played when I left the DVD on for a while.

The Pitch

Dean Cain and a wendigo stand up for good Christian values.

The Humans

Michael Emanuel (writer/director), Dean Cain, Lacy Phillips, Stephen Lunsford, Christopher Darga, Nicole Moore, Allison Kyler, and Conrad Janis.

The Nutshell

Harry Bailey (Dean Cain), a former FBI profiler turned small town sheriff, investigates the gruesome, cannibalistic murder of several local teens, only to learn thta the killer he’s huntig is a blood-thirsty monster.

The Lowdown

Wendigos are seriously one of the scariest monsters in the popular lexicon of folk-lore. A powerful metaphor for greed, gluttony, and the dangers of cannibalism they appeal to some very primal fear within the human psyche. They should be an obvious choice for horror movie plots but more often than not we just get something like Frostbiter or The Last Winter or in best-case something like Ravenous or Wendigo which are good movies but obliquely refer to the monster at best. I think it’s possible to make a good movie that actually shows a wendigo and isn’t hackneyed or dumb.

“Dean Cain shits with an intensity unmatched by other actors” – Roger Ebert

Dean Cain plays a sheriff dealing with a rash of murders in his idyllic small town. Things have been rough for him lately: his wife disappeared, his daughter is becoming a hormonal teenager, he has no appetite, and he’s having horrible Point-of-view dreams of some horrible monster killing and eating people at night. Could he be the one committing the crimes? Of course he’s not! Don’t you know how misdirection works?

I apologize if that seems like a spoiler but it couldn’t be more painfully obvious if the title was “There is a Twist at the End of This Movie.” The writers rapidly fling red herrings at the viewer like a fishmonger on speed. Righteous Kill had more restraint than this.

Of course that’s not to say that everything about this movie is totally obvious. While I knew within the first ten minutes that Dean Cain wasn’t the wendigo it took me most of the movie to figure out who it actually was. The writers throw out a lot of very plausible suspects and give us plenty of reasons to suspect almost everyone at one point or another. Of course then it just flat out spells it out for you in 300-foot-tall letters in a “clue” so obvious that you’d have to be blind to miss it. This happens with about 45-minutes left to go.

The thesis statement of the movie seems to be “we’re going to do something shockingly competent until the last possible moment where we’ll fuck up so catastrophically that it will devastate any enjoyment you were able to glean from what has come thus far.”

Case in point: The special effects are surprisingly pretty great in this movie, and unless I missed something they are entirely 100% practical. All the gore looks suitably gross and visceral and there’s a scene with a bear that involves some top-notch camera tricks and puppeteering. Unfortunately the wendigo looks dumb, and stupid, and also dumb. It looks like a cross between The Cryptkeeper and Rawhead Rex, which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the doofy looking effect of its glowing blue eyes which just make it look like a cheap Halloween decoration.

A little something for the severed butt cheek fetishists out there. You’re welcome.

Of course, I won’t take many points off for any bad practical effect just on the principal that it is a practical effect and not some CG nightmare. Besides there are some many other things in this movie to complain about.

This movie was very obviously shot to premier on the SyFy Channel, which is apparent in all of the “cut to commercial break” moments. Which is why I couldn’t help but laugh at all the gratuitous nudity, non-TV friendly gore, and use of the word “Fuck.” And honestly since those are the closest thing to “redeeming qualities” this movie has I’m gonna go ahead and predict that if you watch this on SyFy, you’re gonna have a bad time.

And can we talk about Deputy Zeus? He’s the comedy relief character and he only feels slightly less out of place than the police in The Last House on the Left. He combines the charm of an over-weight middle-aged man who totally wants to bone a teenager with the hilarity of Kevin James character. I am honestly surprised every line he speaks isn’t punctuated by a fart noise.

And lets talk about the wendigo for a second. If you’re not aware of how one becomes a wendigo, it pretty much comes down to greed or cannibalism. They’re meant to be a cautionary tale to keep people in line, which is why I pointed to them dealing with primal fears earlier. Well, in this movie you become a wendigo when you get really angry at an unfaithful lover or when you look in the eyes of a dying Wendigo. Where the hell did that come from? This sure sounds like a contrived plot device to me. Oh, that’s because it is!

The Wendigo is also pro-life and hates Barack Obama

When it’s finally found out who the wendigo is it’s never explained why Dean Cain is having visions, or why killing adulterers has anything to do with killing promiscuous teenagers. I think this was meant to be a play on the slasher genre’s tendency to punish kids for stepping out of line in movies but it’s only really half-developed at best.

There is a lot of playing on the genre conventions of partying teens going on here. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that though the teens are annoying, they’re annoying in a realistic and organic fashion. Their discussions sound like things teens would actually say and they actually looked like teenagers.

Dean Cain is always a lure for me when it comes to genre films. I honestly can’t explain why, since most of the movies he’s in are terrible. He proves to be the most capable actor here (and to be fair most of the performances aren’t bad), he’s not as wooden as he used to be and he sells his role well. Unfortunately since the man has aged rather gracefully he looks far too young to have a teenage daughter.

All in all, the film has some good moments and ideas but they really just prove that everyone involved was capable of so much better and I’m more inclined to take off points than add them for the few flourishing touches. I’ll keep an eye on director Michael Emanuel but I wouldn’t blame anyone for skipping this one.

Oh, one more thing. Why are Native Americans sleeping in animal hide tents in 1938?

If only the script editor had taken this stance.

The Package

If you look on the title screen at the top of this review you will notice that the screenshot appears to be from the video-game tie-in for the Sega Genesis. This is not a result of my converting the screen capture to a JPEG format, it looked that pixelated and bad on my big fancy HD tv playing on the BluRay player.

The film quality of this movie is bad. It’s not even anything to do with what’s going on on the other side of the camera, it just looks like it was shot on a 16MM camera somebody dug out of a barn. Every frame of this looks bleached out and grainy.

The disc has no special features, but really the only one that I would like to see is a long apology from the cast and crew and a promise to shape up and do better in the future.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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