Wood: Hunger of Wendigo
“Mother Earth has been plundered, deprived of her blood. A violation that awakened the Evil Spirit. In search of the lost, the frail and the depraved. Pray that he doesn’t want you.
This is the opening quote from the movie drink spoken in a Native American language, and touches on one of the film’s many themes, it also gives us a better understanding of the myth of the creature at the heart of the story. The Wendigo is a mythological creature of the Algonquian-speaking First Nations of North America. They are monsters who have an insatiable appetite for human flesh and are the embodiment of gluttony, greed and excess. They are never satisfied and always hungry.
drink takes place in a small mining town in central Oregon. With the mine currently being decommissioned, but slated to reopen, many townspeople are starving and struggling to survive. The story centers on Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas), whose father Frank (Scott Haze) and seven-year-old brother Aiden (Sawyer Jones), were attacked by an unseen creature in Frank’s meth lab in one of the closed mine shafts. and started to transform into something else. Frank, in an attempt to protect Lucas, locks himself (and later Aiden) in his attic. Trying to keep his family together, Lucas brings them some freshly killed animals. But a visit from the school principal frees the now completely transformed Frank back into the wild and the bodies begin to pile up. Lucas’s new teacher, Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), takes an interest in Lucas and begins investigating his family life in an effort to save him from the abuse she suffered from her father. Her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons) is the city sheriff and is investigating the recent increase in the number of dead bodies. Can Lucas survive what his family has become?
Produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Scott Cooper, the film is dark and atmospheric, with a sort of beauty in its desolation. The cinematography is gorgeous and the performances are all strong. Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons (breaking Bad) do a great job as separated siblings who come together after their father dies. Both face past physical abuse from their father and resentments about the history they share. The two actors create sympathetic but damaged souls. Their past is seen in brief flashbacks and dreams that don’t dominate the film but give dimension to the characters. Jeremy T. Thomas as Lucas truly shines as a gaunt child victim of years of abuse who is just trying to keep an already fractured family. Lucas’s father Frank, played by Scott Haze, does a great job as a man who loves his children, but has also abused them. The allegorical plot of the monster in all of us and the correlation with child abuse is very clear. Being able to say goodbye and leave loved ones for your own safety and health. The opening quote sets up an environmental aspect of the film, but it never seems to be mentioned again except perhaps in background conversations.
Unfortunately, the film seems a bit lost. The movie has a good pace, but the pace is a bit slow at the start. There were some missed opportunities to elevate the film above the normal monster film and make it something a little more spectacular. Julia talks about the morality hidden in myths and folklore. What do fairy tales teach us? But they never really explore what lessons we might learn from Wendigo. Plus, the movie is also extremely depressing. A movie needs a balance between highs and lows, comedy and drama, light and dark. This film is low, dramatic and dark.
As mentioned above, the production value is very high, but we never really get a good look at the monster. A few quick flashes towards the end give us a clear picture, but for a movie called “Antlers”, I would have liked to see a bit more of the creature’s antlers. I would also have liked the “rules” of the monster to be a little more defined. It is indicated how to kill him, but it is not indicated how one is possessed. Is it by physical transfer, closeness or greed in our hearts? Here, the rules seem much more random.