review for Wendigo on AllMovie

Wendigo (2001)
by Josh Ralske review

Larry Fessenden's low-budget supernatural thriller Wendigo is effectively creepy, despite its inherent cheesiness. In addition, while the film owes a sizeable debt to earlier microbudget horror landmarks, particularly The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project, Fessenden gives his "lost in the woods" tale just enough emotional and psychological depth to imbue it with a uniquely melancholic tone. The opening, with a couple and their son in a car, traveling a lonely backwoods road in the snow, evokes Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and there's an emotionally distant quality to Jake Weber's strong performance as George, the dad, that leaves the viewer uncertain about where the film is headed. This is good. Though Fessenden is reworking some ancient horror film tropes here, one of Wendigo's strengths is its quirky unpredictability. Erik Per Sullivan, as the boy, Miles , plays a pivotal role, as much of the action can be seen as a representation of his imaginative efforts to deal with a threat to him and his family that lies just outside the scope of his comprehension. Sullivan is soft-spoken, but his intelligence shines through in his inquisitive eyes. He is a very strong presence. Fessenden was also responsible for Habit, one of three late '90s New York City hipster takes on the vampire film (the others were Abel Ferrara's The Addiction and Michael Almereyda's Nadja). He knows the genre, and uses his scant resources to build tension beautifully. The title creature isn't introduced until well over a third of the way into the film. By typical monster movie standards, this one is a low-rent disaster along the lines of The Creeping Terror, the infamous 1960s cheapie "carpet monster." But seen as a bizarre creature out of a child's nightmare, Wendigo is surprisingly unsettling.