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2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Wind Chill
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Cop, A Coed And Some Ghostly Priests Walk Into A Snowbank. . ."
3 stars

Emily Blunt may not be a name that is instantly familiar to many of you but if there is any justice in the world of cinema, she will soon become as well-known to you as such other British actresses of the moment as Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley. I first noticed her a couple of years ago in “My Summer of Love,” a powerful drama of a couple of teenage girls coming of age in a rural English town that didn’t get nearly the amount of attention that it deserved. You most likely noticed her in the scene-stealing role of the incredibly uptight assistant in last summer’s “The Devil Wears Prada,” a sardonic supporting turn that almost single-handedly saved that film from complete disposability. Based on her work in those two roles, it appears that she may be one of those rare performers whose mere presence in a film is a signal that the project as a whole might be better than the average multiplex fodder–after all, if the filmmakers were smart enough to cast her in the first place, maybe their taste and intelligence spread to other elements as well.

In a way, “Wind Chill” serves as a perfect test case for that hypothesis. On the surface, it seems to have all the earmarks of a disaster since it has been dumped on the marketplace so halfheartedly–it is only playing in a handful of theaters in a few cities with no press screenings or publicity to speak of–that it makes Fox’s treatment of “Idiocracy” seem lavish by comparison. Under normal circumstances, even I might have given such a film a pass but since it features Emily Blunt in her first lead role, I decided to seek it out and give it a chance that I must admit that I might not have extended if, say, Mischa Barton had been the featured player on display. As it turns out, “Wind Chill” is not an unsung masterpiece by any means but it is somewhat more interesting than Sony’s lack of faith would lead you to believe.

Blunt plays a somewhat bitchy college girl who, following a break-up with her boyfriend, is in desperate need of a ride back to her home in Delaware for the holidays. After consulting the Share-A-Ride board, she pairs up with a slightly dorky classmate, played by Ashton Holmes (last seen as Viggo Mortensen’s avenging nerd son in “A History of Violence”), for the long ride home. At first, she is fairly mean and unpleasant towards the guy–she complains about his car and seems appalled at the very notion of making small talk in order to pass the time–but as the ride progresses, he begins to demonstrate enough questionable behavior of his own to suggest that he may not be as sweet and innocent as he appears, especially when he pulls off of the highway for a isolated rural road. Just as this is coming to a head, though, their car is sideswiped by someone speeding from the other direction and they find themselves trapped in a snowbank with no food and a bitter cold snap approaching. This might be bad enough for most people but the two start seeing mysterious figures wandering around–a group of deformed priests and a decidedly surly highway patrolman (Martin Donovan) among them–that suggest that perhaps freezing to death may be the least of their worries.

For maybe the first two-thirds of the running time, “Wind Chill” is actually an above-average, if decidedly low-key, thriller. Instead of relying on gross-out shock tactics, director Gregory Jacobs (the Steven Soderbergh associate who previously made “Criminal”) focuses his efforts of creating tension the old-fashioned way–by creating a palpable atmosphere of mood and despair and keeping the potential horrors of the situation off the screen and in our imagination. (He is aided in the aspect immeasurably by the contributions of cinematographer Dan Laustsen, whose work here is especially impressive when you consider the limitations that he was obviously working under due to the film’s concept.) The screenplay that co-writers Joe Gangemi & Steven Katz (the later was the author of the acclaimed “Shadow of the Vampire”) have crafted is far more intelligent and literate than the usual nonsense heard in contemporary genre films–when was the last time you heard a discussion of Nietzsche in any American movie, let alone a mere horror film? The central performances from Blunt and Holmes are also quite strong as well–Blunt is very good at finding the hidden vulnerabilities in a character who has spent her entire life trying not to show any such things and Holmes is equally impressive as the oddball loner whose motives are never entirely certain from scene to scene.

At this point, however, the film begins to make a serious of wrong turns that makes the one taken by the lead characters seem like a minor detour by comparison. The supernatural element gradually begins to dominate the proceedings and the menaces they supply–such as an eel emerging from one character’s mouth and the increasingly malevolent presence of that strange cop, who apparently has the power to freeze a person to death just by touching them–are simply not as interesting as the more low-key creepiness of the earlier scenes and the film as a whole might have been far more interesting, if less commercially viable (if such a thing is possible) if they had just been eliminated entirely and the focus stayed with the two kids in the car. The screenplay also begins to grow a little lazy as it begins to devolve into a seemingly endless series of dream sequences. The biggest frustration comes with the ending, or rather the lack of one–this is one of those films that just ends so abruptly and unsatisfyingly that you may find yourself wondering if the studio simply forgot to send out the last reel as a final act of contempt towards the film.

Because of the unsatisfying final half-hour, I can’t really recommend that you rush out this weekend in an effort to find it and even if I did, it appears that Sony has already decided to yank it in order to provide more screens for “Spider-Man 3.” And yet, if you do get the opportunity to check it out sometime on DVD or cable, you might want to give it a shot based on the strength of the Emily Blunt performance and the creepy, chilly atmosphere that it maintains throughout. (Of course, the fact that caught the film in a fairly cold and utterly empty theater might have helped contribute to that feeling when I saw it.) Besides, until it goes off the rails towards the end, you actually get the sense that the makers of “Wind Chill” were genuinely trying to make a good movie instead of just another piece of anonymous genre product and when was the last time you could say that about an American horror film?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15739&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/04/07 11:51:36
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User Comments

10/29/16 morris campbell low key but creepy & well made kinda sad to 4 stars
5/09/08 shashank Good 4 stars
4/02/08 Alyssa It's sort of bad because of the plot, but it's creepy and the acting was really good. 4 stars
3/21/08 Gin pretty good...kinda slow,but really picks up 4 stars
9/04/07 rahul itz not bad.. 3 stars
8/29/07 Mr. B Good watch until the ending just abruptly spoiled everything. Don't bother. 2 stars
8/21/07 Laurentiu Ilie could be better, nasty ending 3 stars
7/19/07 William Goss Moderately eerie low-key spooker boasts prime performance from Blunt, with help from Holmes 4 stars
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  27-Apr-2007 (R)
  DVD: 04-Sep-2007



Directed by
  Greg Jacobs

Written by
  Joe Gangemi
  Steven Katz

  Ashton Holmes
  Emily Blunt
  Ned Bellamy
  Martin Donovan
  Chelan Simmons

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