(3 1/2 *'s) George Clooney and Stephen Soderbergh have teamed up once again to produce `Wind Chill,' a horror movie that's more and less than one expects from a horror film. First of all, it's equally a survivor story and a stalker/romance as well as ghost story with a colorful history. Don't get me wrong, there are some scary moments in the movie, but the film admirably relies more on suspense and ambiguity in its presentation. All of it comes together in a way that's as invigorating as a cold, arctic blast from Canada.
The movie starts with some familiar on-the-road setup, complete with the car that breaks down and everything goes wrong. From there the developments are often different, however. Mysterious without names, the "Gal" (Emily Blunt) foregoes the plane ride from college exams before holiday break and decides to take the Greyhound bus. That is until she gets a text message during an exam inviting her to hook up with a ride from the posted message board. She finds someone who's headed to Delaware, so on a lark she calls to make the connection.
The "Guy" (Ashton Holmes) seems wholly accommodating, except they both are in many ways a mismatch. She finds him asleep at the wheel, waiting in the parking lot. She doesn't have much room to put her stuff, but has less room to complain when she shows up late in the first place. He shows a keen interest in her, even imposing on her cell phone calls and demanding her to engage in conversation as "her part of the deal".
Things aren't as they seem, and, ambiguity is a cornerstone to the movie's development. It turns out that he knows a great deal more about her than she would expect, and his interest becomes more than practical, especially when he refuses to let her pay her share of the gas money. When they come upon a remote gas station, gaunt, shadowy figures surround her. She gets an unnerving sense that the journey is stacked against her, but not all the evidence adds up. Is she a little paranoid and overly suspicious? Is he chivalrous in an old-fashioned, but patronizing way, or is he a stalker? When they leave the gas station, he abruptly turns out on remote Highway 606 much to her chagrin. Soon they get into an argument, one that escalates as an oncoming car, forces them off the road in an accident that has alarming consequences looming before them.
Stranded they are left to encounter a barren area that contains a haunted past, one that fills their dream life until reality and supernatural start to blur. More pressing is the need for the basics of survival as the radio announces the night will bring a 30 below wind chill, and they notice the gas tank is slowly leaking along with their prospects. In the meantime, not only is the area haunted with a violent past, but the "Guy" has been keeping secrets from the "Gal" that slowly unfurl like a weather vein.
`Wind Chill' is as much of a drama and a mystery as it is a horror film. Having seen the all-too-familiar developments of campfire horror films like 'Vacancy,' 'Wind Chill' is ahead of the front with a thoughtful, yet chilling development.
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John L. Peterson (JP_Rocky_Raccoon)
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Good start to this discreet horror film, as one of those nightmare-fantasy road-movie ideas gets a tryout: What if the rideshare lift you got from a classmate over winter break turned really, really bad? Recently jilted college co-ed Emily Blunt finds herself catching a ride with a fellow student (Ashton Holmes) who seems to know much more about her than he should. It's a snowy night, and a turn-off from the main highway becomes just as crazy as any idiot could've told you it would be. Much of the remainder of the film seems to be a variation on the kind of urban legend (well, rural legend) that gets turned into a baleful country song. That's where it gets, literally, bogged down: the early scares and red herrings are well-managed, but when it comes time to actually supply an explanation for its apparitions,Wind Chillflops. The movie is produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's company, and directed by one of their protégés, Gregory Jacobs. The most effective thing about it (other than some half-formed allusions to Nietzsche, which might explain the central mystery) is the abrasive relationship between the two riders. Blunt (following her success inMy Summer of LoveandThe Devil Wears Prada) creates that rarity, a young woman who does not seem to want to be loved by the audience. This nurtures some believable tension, after which the drifts begin to get thick.--Robert Horton