I’m beginning to think that, cinematically at least, the Wendigo hit its peak back in 1995 with Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo, an absolutely batshit mix of folklore, Evil Dead style mayhem, and stop motion monsters. Despite some decent films on the subject like The Retreat there’s yet to be a definitive screen version of this creature from Native American folklore.
The latest take on the myth is titled, aptly enough, The Wendigo and it begins somewhere in the woods of North Carolina as YouTuber Logan (Tyler Gene, Tramping Ground, Ice Heist) calls out the creature’s name hoping to catch it on camera for his livestream. He gets more than he bargained for and gets dragged off while, in true found footage fashion, his camera glitches.
Ironically, the footage goes viral and we get to see several other YouTubers give their opinions on whether it was real or faked, ending with one announcing “I guess I better cancel my premium subscription”.
When Logan doesn’t reappear after a few weeks two of his buddies TJ (Jake Robinson, Mothman, They are Here) and Jay (Hunter Redfern, The Great Dismal, Crackcoon) along with two other YT personalities Matthew (Matthias Margraves, Tramping Ground), Cassi (Laura Rodriguez, Out of Touch TV, 911) and Kaylee (Taylor-Grace Davis, Skookum: The Hunt for Bigfoot, In the Devil’s Courthouse).
Their footage was recovered, but they are still missing.
Director Jake Robinson (What suicide looks like, Someone’s Outside) and co-writer James S. ‘Jamie’ Brown (Fatal Getaway, Friends Don’t Let Friends) had about $5,000 to make a found footage film with so you may already have an idea of what The Wendigo is going to be like. Sadly you’re probably right because The Wendigo is a very generic example of the genre.
The first few minutes with Logan aren’t bad. The comments on his stream actually look like the real thing, and there are a couple of moments where the shadows and half seen things in the dark do look creepy. After that though it all goes downhill fast as the film devolves into loads of inane dialogue while the characters are on their way to the woods. where they have to convince the park ranger (Paul Hurley, The Devil’s Daughter, Always) to let them in because it’s a restricted area.
I know they didn’t have the budget for lots of effects, and I think they may have been trying to satirize influencer/vlogger culture but none of this is funny. Getting the characters into the woods and starting to work up the creep factor with would have been a much better idea. Instead once they get there they stand around in the parking lot using a drone to look for Logan. The scenery is great, but it’s not scary, something that can be said for most of The Wendigo.
Well maybe Matthew repeatedly calling Cassi a bitch and threatening to fuck people up might count. But when something weird does happen and the woods go from bright sunshine to darkness in a matter of seconds rather than play it up the filmmakers have the group be more worried about their lighting than what’s going on,. “Maybe it’s just the tree cover”.
Towards the end there are a few minutes where things do pick up a bit as something carries one of them off and a bloody Logan shows up worried because he lost his contact lens. But a few good minutes at either end of the film can’t save it, especially when the middle is full of moments like Cassi telling Kaylee this is all her fault because she went off to college.
The Wendigo is only sixty-eight minutes long. They needed get the characters into the dark woods ASAP, then occasionally unleash something like they did in the opening scenes until no-one is left. Simple and effective, Found Footage 101. Instead we get what feels like endless inane squabbling among unlikable characters and by the time it decides it wants to be The Evil Dead, you’ll just be wanting it to end.
And if you’re wondering, yes you do get to very briefly see The Wendigo, and the design is simple but effective, that was one thing they got right. If the sequel the mid credit sequence hints at happens hopefully it will have a more prominent role.
Terror Films will release The Wendigo worldwide on August 4th.