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The Windigo (2024) Review

The windigo, or more commonly wendigo, is a prominent creature in the folklore of several Algonquin-speaking tribes such as the Ojibwe, Saulteaux, and Cree. While the details differ somewhat from tribe to tribe, they all agree that the windigo is a supernatural being with a hunger for human flesh and a connection to hunger, starvation and cannibalism.

Needless to say, a creature like that has frequently been used in both books and movies of widely varying quality and faithfulness to the source folktales. The most recent example being The Windigo written by Brent Jordan (Everyday But Christmas) and directed by Gabe Torres (The Remarkable Life of John Weld, The Ottoman Empire).

Waking from a nightmarish vision of the windigo killing one of her ancestors, an old woman (Casey Camp-Horinek, Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee, Reservation Dogs) calls her her great-granddaughter Claire (Tonantzin Carmelo, Unearthed, La Brea). Worried by the old woman’s talk of monsters, she has Sheriff Elkins (Brian Krause, Homestead, Dark Rising: Warrior of Worlds) do a wellness check on her while she and her children Bree (Fivel Stewart, Pit Fighter, The Haunting of Sharon Tate) and Ry (Marco Fuller, Dead for a Dollar, The Veil) come out from California.

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Of course, the old woman lives in a decaying house covered in dreamcatchers and other symbols. She also has an area out in the woods where she makes them and talks about finding a safe place to die. And, of course, she knows all about the windigo.

What she should have told her family about are the other monsters living in the woods, Ben (Adam Shalzi, High on the Hog, The Crusades), Kevin (Griffin Powell-Arcand, Don’t Say Its Name, Trickster) and Tuck (Justin Mane, Deadlock, Eternal Code). They’re a trio of psychotic meth dealers whose lab the kids stumble across while hiking in the woods. The sheriff’s response is to do nothing beyond calling Bree’s saving her brother from being murdered as “attacking Ben with an axe.”

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Every character in The Windigo, except for Claire, who isn’t on the screen long enough to have a personality, is a cliché. The wimpy brother and ass kicking sister, sadistic and probably inbred hillbillies, a useless if not corrupt backwoods cop and an old Native American who knows all about magic. Including how to summon the windigo. So it should be no surprise when she and Ry call it up to deal with the meth dealers. Or when they find they can’t control what they summoned.

The creature itself is kept hidden for most of the film, usually we see Ry attacking its victims and a monstrous shadow on a wall, or in several embarrassing scenes, leaping around in his bedroom acting them out as they happen. Other times, we see from the creature’s point of view through what looks like one giant eye. When we finally do see it, it’s played by contortionist Troy James (Slash/Back, Anything for Jackson) in a creepy looking suit designed by Steve Newburn (Level 16, Kids vs Aliens). The filmmakers also give us several good looks at the bloody aftermath of its attacks, my favourite being the corpse in the tree that drops an intestine on someone standing under it.

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But as visually enjoyable as those scenes are, they’re never truly compelling or scary. The characters are never interesting enough to care about, and their fates don’t matter enough to get the viewer involved. Effects alone can’t save The Windigo from an all too familiar script that pulls bits and pieces from much better films. At one point, it even tries riffing on Ripley’s battle with the Queen Alien, only with a John Deere tractor instead of the mech suit.

Originally given a theatrical release by Indican Pictures, The Windigo is now available on Digital Platforms.

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