Sasquatch, the Manitou, and the Wendigo have all been subjects of film, comics, and the tourist trade. These urban legends are North America’s answer to Europe’s plethora of folk horror, which is richly mined in cinema in such titles as The Wicker Man, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, and Midsommar. Rocketing in with a different take on one of those beasties is director Jake Robinson’s found footage gem The Wendigo, written by Robinson and James S. Brown.
Taking in the influence of social media and a healthy dose of the seminal The Blair Witch Project, social media star Logan (Tyler Gene) disappears at night while camping near a lake in North Carolina. The area is supposedly inhabited by the Wendigo, a mythical antlered creature that kills those people who invoke it. In the stage tradition of saying the name of the Scottish play, Logan says “Wendigo” multiple times in jest during a live broadcast. Walking in the woods and showing genuine fear, he meets his fate. The bulk of the film comprises his friends — Matt (Matthias Margraves), Cassi (Laura Rodriguez), Jay (Hunter Redfern), T.J. (Jake Robinson), Paul (Paul Hurley), and Kaylee (Taylor-Grace Davis) — trying to find Logan and coming across the horror that lives in the woods.
Yes, the story is routine, and less skilled filmmakers would fall back onto the genre’s tropes. Happily, Robinson and Brown do not do so with The Wendigo. Multiple cameras are used to highlight different viewpoints, all with high-grade resolution. This helps expand the story and characterizations. The people looking for Logan are all streamers, so they post videos throughout. In a very effective opening, Logan is live streaming his walk in the woods at night with eerie sounds that take their toll. On the left side of the frame are posts by people watching and commenting in a constant flood of words and hearts. The viewer gets glimpses of something and then hears Logan’s horrifying pleas. The dreaded buffering rotating circle is used quite well to separate segments, making this film effective if watched on a large screen.
“…the Wendigo, a mythical antlered creature that kills those people who invoke it.”
The actors all do well with what they are given. The dialogue sounds natural like the script was improved. Most of the characters are selfish, attention-seeking people who want to turn the search into a “me” moment. Margraves, Rodriguez, Redfern, Robinson, Hurley, and Davis all mirror a disintegration of social norms and indulge in arguments believably. That some of these folks are selfish and others are concerned about their friend adds to the realism.
Tension, blood, horrid screams, and the realization of doom in the woods at night all permeate The Wendigo, bringing today’s viewers into its world of darkness. This is illustrated in the aftermath of various fans of Logan watching his fate from that night on tape after the fact and commenting. These “Logan Lovers” are cynical, believing it’s not real and muttering that they should cancel their premium subscription. Some are genuinely shocked and laugh, saying he should have taken a gun.
The Wendigo sports chilling imagery, good use of varying video despite the found footage angle, and a cast that makes subtle commentary on social media that not many want to admit. When combined, all these elements make for a dread-inducing experience. Subtler than the V/H/S series in terms of gore, this work evokes one of the best horror tropes, those caught in the monster’s influence. Enjoy it anytime, just maybe not right before a camping trip.
"…evokes one of the best horror tropes..."