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Wind Chill (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/4/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/28/2007

I typically don't turn to Beavis & Butt-Head for philosophy, but there's an episode of the show where Butt-Head essentially says, "If we didn't know what sucked, then we wouldn't know what was cool." Crude as this may be, he's right. When we watch a movie, we compare it to other movies that we've seen and base our judgment on that. Sometimes we compare a movie to another movie which has a similar story or style. That's exactly what I did with Wind Chill, as, while watching it, I kept thinking of comparable projects which were much better.

(Author's Note: None of the characters in Wind Chill have names, so bear with me and my use of pronouns -- ML) Wind Chill introduces us to a college student (Emily Blunt) who needs a ride home for Christmas break. Checking a kiosk, she find a flyer for fellow traveler heading to Delaware. She meets up with the guy (Ashton Holmes), who is a complete stranger to her, and they set off on their journey. They make some small talk, but she is quite cold to him at first. After stopping at an eerie gas station, the driver decides to take a short-cut down a snow-covered side road, claiming that it's a scenic route. This odd choice makes the girl become apprehensive about her traveling companion. But, before she can follow this train of thought, their car is run off of the road. They are unable to move the car, and the guy decides that it's too far to walk back to the gas station. As night falls and the temperature begins to drop, they begin to realize that they aren't alone on the lonely stretch of road.

Wind Chill comes to us from director Gregory Jacobs, who has worked with Steven Soderbergh for over a decade (Soderbergh and George Clooney are executive producers of this movie) and co-screenwriter Steven Katz, who wrote the celebrated Shadow of the Vampire. But, despite this pedigree, Wind Chill commits two of the ultimate cinematic sins: it's boring and unoriginal.

The movie is essentially divided into two parts. For the first 20 minutes, the movie appears to be a psychological thriller, but then Wind Chill does a head-fake and becomes a ghost story. However, neither of these aspects work. I don't want to give too much away here, but the psychological thriller aspect is so far-fetched and preposterous that it will pull many viewers out of the movie. (Once the explanation is given as to why there two are together, you'll shake your head in disbelief.) Following the accident, the pair realize that they are on a cursed stretch of road. But, the explanation for the events that follow is not very impressive or intriguing. This is couple with the fact that the bulk of the film doesn't involve overt scares, but the guy and girl sitting in the car bickering about their predicament.

While watching Wind Chill, I was reminded of the 2003 New Zealand film The Locals, which has a very similar plot. In that movie, two friends take a shortcut and realize that they are caught in a supernatural time warp. The difference is that things actually happen in The Locals. It's clear that the makers of Wind Chill wanted to create tension with the fact that the couple can't leave the car due to the freezing temperatures. (The writers admit that they wanted to make the smallest "haunted house" movie possible.) But, instead of a sense of claustrophobia, we only get a sense of boredom. There is also an episode of the TV show Supernatural which has a similar premise. Entitled "Roadkill", the idea of a haunted strip of highway is explored, and again, the results are more satisfying. A certain element of the story in Wind Chill which involved a radio reminded me of Jeepers Creepers and Silent Hill. The "villain" introduced in the second half of the film is very hackneyed. Writers Katz and Gangemi mention on the audio commentary that they didn't want to make a typical horror movie, but they did.

Given the lackluster story, other elements are called upon to carry the film. Jacobs does a fine job of shooting the film, but there's only so much that he can do with a movie where two people sit in a car for 90 minutes. The pacing gets quite sluggish in the middle, as we wait for the rest of the story to arrive. Emily Blunt, who was so good in The Devil Wears Prada, is asked to carry this film and she does a fine job. But, her character is meant to be kind of a bitch, so it's hard to relate to her.

Given that I watch a lot of low-budget horror movies featuring people that you've never heard of, I was looking forward to a film which had some clout. However, it appears that those behind Wind Chill didn't know how to construct a solid horror film, despite their experience in the industry. Do yourself a favor and rent The Locals instead.

Wind Chill blows onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD features both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, free from any distracting grain or defects from the source material. Given that all of the film takes place in a snowy landscape, it's a testament to the clarity of the image that there isn't much visible grain on the white background. Having said that, things do get a tad too dark once the sun sets. Aside from some slight video noise, I noted no major issues with the transfer. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some good examples of "jump" sound effects here, which were probably what kept me awake during the movie. The surround sound is good and the subwoofer gets some exercise during the accident scenes.

The Wind Chill DVD contains two extra features. First up is an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring director Gregory Jacobs and screenwriters Joseph Gangemi and Steven Katz. This is a fairly good talk as the trio gives a detailed description of the film's production. Both Katz and Gangemi were on-set, so all three describe the bitter cold conditions and the challenge of shooting this small story. The other extra is "A Frozen Set: The Making of Wind Chill". This 18-minute featurette offers a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage, as we here from cast and crew about the development of the story, the characters, and the challenges of the location shooting.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long