Friday, July 22, 2022

Blackwood, Where the Wendigo Roams

You can dismiss Bigfoot, because footage like the Patterson/Gimlin video just looks staged, but don’t scoff at the Wendigo. The latter is an ancient Native legend that probably wasn’t handed down for no reason. Regardless, going into dak, shunned woods is a dangerous proposition. Of course, you can’t tell that to a bunch of outlaws (especially the racist ones), who are determined to blunder through the creature’s stomping grounds in search of gold. They are sure to find something in Chris Canfield’s Blackwood, which opens today in New York.

Dutch Wilder’s gang just pulled off a sensitive job for Sally Pickerton, not even knowing she is a woman. They are even more annoyed when she “offers” to bring them into a claim-jumping caper rather than pay for their services. Believing there is indeed gold in those hills, they reluctantly agree to her scheme. The problem is the hills in question are in the Blackwood Forest, which has a reputation for evil supernatural business with the local native population.

Nevertheless, Dowanhowee feels herself drawn there. She is the last of her tribe. As it happens, she recognizes one of Wilder’s thugs from his participation in the massacre of her people, so she takes advantage of the opportunity for some vengeance. As she flees the Wilder gang, she leads them directly into Wendigo territory.

And that’s about it.
Blackwood definitely would have worked better if Canfield had a better command of mood. It is a pretty straightforward, hurtling-towards-the-inevitable narrative, without much foreboding or tension. As a further drawback, the wendigo creature design often does not look nearly as imposing as it should.

The way Dowanhowee is just carried along by the winds of fate is also highly questionable. However, Bates Wilder and Glen Morshower (Agent Pierce in
24) bring the right kind of jaundiced grit and greying grizzle to the film, respectively, as Dutch Wilder and Wallace Price, Pickerton’s righthand man. It is also fun to watch Kara Rainer’s villainous attitude and flamboyance as Pickerton. Unfortunately, everyone else is playing a caricature or a stick figure.

just really does not leave much of an impression one way or the other. It isn’t creepy enough for Weird West fans and its revisionist western elements are too predictable. Not recommended, Blackwood opens today (7/22) in New York, at the Cinema Village.