Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Windmill: This is Holland

Wind power will never be a practical alternative to fossil fuels, because it is intermittent. That means it doesn’t always blow. However, an old Dutch miller named Hendryk came up with a solution. He sold his soul to the devil to keep his big wheel turning. It turned out he was grinding up more than grain in there. Centuries later, the old Miller keeps coming back for more victims in Nick Jongerius’s The Windmill (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

An Australian teen is on the run from the law, so logically she comes to Holland. An American businessman trying to keep his hemophiliac teenage son away from his embittered ex-wife also chooses Holland for a sudden getaway vacation. They all wind-up in a motley tour group making the rounds of windmill country. Naturally, the bus breaks down, forcing them to spend the night in a mysterious windmill that is not on any of the tourist maps.

It turns out this old Hendryk’s abode. According to legends, the devil decided to give him a permanent roster spot after the peasants gave him the torch and pitchfork treatment. Clearly, he is still out there, hacking and slashing away. He could also be behind the guilt trip hallucinations everyone is having. Takashi the Japanese tourist might just have the game figured out, but the only one he can talk to is an AbFab-ish former model, who used to have a lot of work in Japan. Alas, she is not as focused as she should be.

The Windmill easily carries the best tag line of the year: “This isn’t Hell. This is Holland.” Jongerius and screenwriters Chris W. Mitchell and Suzy Quid even have a character say the line, making it totally legit. The backstory is also totally creepy and the underlying Macguffin is pretty compelling in an Old Testament kind of way. However, there is too much conventional slasher movie business that keeps Windmill firmly ensconced in meathead movie terrain.

Charlotte Beaumont (the older sister in Broadchurch) is not terrible as Australian Jennifer and Tanroh Ishida is quite good as the Japanese Takashi. Unfortunately, Patrick Baladi and Adam Thomas Wright are strictly groansville as the father and son. However, Bart Klever upstages everyone as Abe, the world’s worst tour guide.

If Jongerius had been more ambitious, The Windmill might have been a real genre standout. Instead, it is just a serviceable Halloween programming choice. Recommended for hardcore fans of Dick Maas’s Dutch horror films (Saint, etc.), The Windmill opens tomorrow (10/28) in LA, at the Arena Cinelounge.