The opening monologue of Russell Friedenberg’s new feature tells of an ancient Native American curse; that of the Wind Walker. The legend describes a supernatural force that waits in the shadows to claim those who have fought in lands to which they do not belong, striking them down upon their return and consigning their souls to the wind. Any hopeful optimism generated by this intriguing set up disappointingly becomes lost as the film stumbles along in the second half, at times becoming as lost as the characters themselves.
With one of their own missing a group of friends head into the wild to hunt but their strained relationships quickly come to the fore as they come under attack from an unknown assailant. As their fear grows suspicion falls upon one of their number, the recently returned army veteran and borderline schizophrenic Kotz (Holtz) but as the bodies mount up it becomes clear something much more evil is stalking them.
There is an intriguing, haunting supernatural thriller at the heart of Friedenberg’s everglade set anti-war film but finding it almost becomes part of the mystery itself as too many genre and subgenre references are randomly thrown together. For much of the film a ghostly protagonist is alluded to, which provides much of the early interest, but in the final act this is forgotten to concentrate instead on some kind of zombie/vampire hybrid that is running around infecting as many people as possible, curiously with the intention of building an army. The purpose of this carnivorous recruitment is never fully explained and despite regular news bulletins reporting this as a global issue rather than a just a Florida-based one, presenting a World War Z-type scenario, this subplot also fades away pretty quickly.
The unpredictable abruptness in the switch of genres is reflected in the narrative itself. The direction and editing do little to aid a story that feels awkwardly disjointed with numerous seemingly unconnected events. Characters buddy up and fall out repeatedly, flashbacks give some apparent history of the “infection” without ever offering an adequate explanation of its source and random scenes appear to be lifted directly from other films. The cast do their best amidst the confusion but struggle to instil any real depth or understandable motive into their characters, as lifelong relationships are quickly discarded when a bloodthirsty survival instinct takes hold.
Instead of the tension-filled horror Friedenberg was clearly aiming for his film sadly descends into a routine thriller with a straight-to-DVD feel about it. You want to like it more, you want to applaud the ambition and then revel in the horror, but ultimately nothing quite holds together cohesively. Whether this is down to the script, editing issues, budgetary restraints or something else altogether Wind Walkers just doesn’t feel finished, something reflected in an ending that feels hurried and last minute.
WIND WALKERS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RUSSELL FRIEDENBERG / STARRING: GLEN POWELL, RUDY YOUNGBLOOD, ZANE HOLTZ / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 21ST (DVD/VOD)
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10