Day 2: Netflix Roulette – The Windmill

While this is technically the second day of the rebranded blog, it’s really the first official day back. Therefore, I decided to go with an old favorite: Netflix Roulette. While I was “spinning the wheel” I noted that one of the benefits of going on hiatus is that the “wheel” has been… refreshed (alright, the metaphor is starting to fall apart, so, I’m officially abandoning it). By the end of the first phase of the blog I was starting the scrape the bottom of the barrel. So, here’s hoping that the new is better than the old.

After sitting through the The Windmill I can’t say for certain that the new swath of movies will for sure be better than those I ended with last year… though, I am hopeful that it won’t be worse. The movie had a lot going for it… and perhaps an equal amount working against it. But, before we get there, I guess I should start with a quick rundown of the film. The Windmill is a 2016 movie out of the Netherlands, though, it is primarily in English (with a smattering of other languages… which was a strength of the movie… it creates an automatic diversity in characters). It follows a group of individuals who are trying to escape their equally difficult pasts by going on a tour of… wait for it… windmills in Holland. The bus breaks down near an unmapped windmill… mayhem ensues. I know, it’s a strange conceit, but the filmmakers (first-time writer and director Nick Jongerius and co-writers Chris Mitchell and Suzy Quid) do a deft job of having the audience focus more on the characters than the conceit… so, I was more than halfway through the movie before I had my wait-a-second-what-is-happening-now moment.

By the end of the (blissfully short) 85 minutes, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the film… which, I guess, is better than feeling like I’ve been wasting my life with this endeavor (I’m looking at you Mr. Jones). I’m not sure that I have a succinct way of summing up my feelings about this film. Therefore, let’s start with what worked for me and then move on to what didn’t… maybe that will help me work through my feelings.

The film starts with several mini-vignettes that introduce us to everyone going on the tour. It’s actually a nice way to get us to invest in the characters that will soon be massacred by a supernatural monster. It had me assuming that the film was going to take the slow-burn approach. That is not the case, however. The first death comes relatively fast… and, it’s a gory one at that. Much gorier than I expected. Something about the combination of it being a foreign horror movie and the focus on characters set up my expectations about the film… it seemed a bit too high-brow for a head-stomping scene. That’s not to say that it was unwelcomed (it seems strange to say that a head-stomping scene is welcomed, but, hey, it is a blog about horror movies after all), just unexpected. What I’m trying to get at is that the film moves at a good pace. In the end, however, there are some weaknesses that undercut a great deal of what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish.

In the end, its biggest weakness, is that there’s not enough here to support a feature film. This means that in the end, what started out as a strength turns into a weakness. I don’t want to give too much away, but the film revolves around the past of all of the characters from the bus. Therefore, the focus of the film gradually shifts from the monster to the “mystery” of each person. Unfortunately, the filmmakers struggle with making this interesting and in some cases they keep hammering on something that was already established. Finally, while the film attempts to answer the wait-a-second-what-is-happening-now moment that pops up towards the middle of the viewing, the answer seems a bit too neat and somewhat shallow… especially if you start pulling at the threads… which, let’s be honest, is never recommended in the horror genre.

Here’s the thing… apparently this movie goes by two different titles: The Windmill (as I’ve been referring to it, since that seems to be the filmmakers’ preference) and The Windmill Massacre. These two titles say a lot about the film: it is somehow halfway between art and pulp… never quite going all-in in either direction. It’s a shame because both sides are handled well… I’m just not sure that both belong in the same movie.

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