The Wendigo Will Waste Your Time

Taylor Grace Davis and Matthias Margrave as Kaylee and Matthew in The Wendigo (2023). Production still courtesy of Terror Films.

The Wendigo provides fresh proof that found footage is rarely done well. Released by Terror Films, this movie is perfect for anyone investigating how to squander good ideas. Despite the semblance of interesting directions, the film follows them little to nowhere. There’s the impression of filmmakers with half an idea trying to fumble their way towards something interesting, but The Wendigo never really sinks its teeth into any of its potential. It only bruises its gums in a toothless bite.

The story begins with Logan (played by Tyler Gene). He’s apparently an online celebrity of some fame engaged in his usual routine. This involves doing dares dictated by his fans. Tasked with spending the night in supposedly haunted woods, things quickly turn sinister. The resulting viral video of Logan’s possible demise then inspires fellow internet influencers to search for their lost colleague.

Tyler Gene as Logan in The Wendgio (2023). Production still courtesy of Terror Films.
Tyler Gene as Logan in The Wendigo (2023). Photo courtesy of Terror Films.

On that note, The Wendigo establishes an interesting premise. The uncertain fate of Logan creates potential for twists as well as character exploration. Each person looking for him possesses their own take on what really happened as well as motivations for joining the search. I was genuinely intrigued by the opening minutes, wondering myself if Logan was indeed dead or pulling a prank for internet fame. As such, the movie briefly seems to be about influencer culture, but unfortunately, that never really goes anywhere. At best, those details simply give the audience a reason to root for the demise of the main characters—come Wendigo, please slaughter these terrible aspiring internet celebrities.

Granted, The Wendigo doesn’t need to make any deep statements about such people, but the narrative fuel feels wasted. Although horror movies don’t always have to be complex metaphorical explorations of social issues, The Wendigo hints at its own potential. Yet, not knowing what to do with it, The Wendigo tosses away any interesting opportunities for low-grade scares. These amount to horrors which might frighten an anxious child, but no one else.

The Wendigo could easily make up for narrative shortcomings with fabulous gore. Lord knows I’ve enjoyed some shallow blood fests over the years. But in the worst tradition of found footage, working around a clearly low budget means nixing excess grotesqueries.

Matthias Margraves as Matthew in The Wendgio (2023). Production still courtesy of Terror Films.
Matthias Margraves as Matthew in The Wendigo (2023). Photo courtesy of Terror Films.

Whenever sanguine stains the screen, it’s hardly a saving grace. The Wendigo is less scary than a balloon pop. Moments meant to be unsettling feel at best predictable, and at worse, like nothing worth mentioning. In fact, any gruesomeness seems like the test footage of a high school drama club who just bought a bottle of fake blood and some digital FX plugins.

Feeling charitable, it’s hard to judge the cast given the material on hand. The performers seem to be making a genuine effort. Although the limits of the script can only be an excuse to a certain extent, it’s hard to imagine even a top tier cast making this movie work. Still, it’s mainly when the movie seems to be leaning towards improvised dialogue that the acting quality declines. Poor audio doesn’t help matters any either.

Perhaps a saving grace is that The Wendigo isn’t any kind of good-bad. There’s no reason to sit around with friends for a beer and pizza evening, drinking and mocking this movie. Nothing about it is funny. That means the movie is most likely to be forgotten rather than linger on the odd life support of humiliation, constantly resuscitated by the sarcastic C.P.R. of an audience guffawing in its face.

Austin Pigza as the Wendigo in The Wendigo (2023). Production still courtesy of Terror Films.
Austin Pigza as the Wendigo in The Wendigo (2023). Photo courtesy of Terror Films.

Additionally, it clocks in at barely over an hour. Anyone watching for whatever reason won’t feel too much of their life wasted by The Wendigo. That said, there isn’t much on screen. This movie possesses so many of the common found footage flaws huge chunks of screen time are shots of the ground while people run, looking at dark empty vistas, or views that don’t show everything happening as if to suggest some cinéma-vérité realism. Of course, the performers aren’t entirely in a shot; that’s what would happen if someone dropped the camera in terror. Yet, the audience is missing the payoff of someone eating a person’s face.

Not to risk spoilers, however, I did oddly appreciate a mid-credits scene setting up a potential sequel. I sincerely admire the ambitious optimism that believes The Wendigo warrants a follow up. That said, if one does come to pass, I will tip my hat and give it a fair watch. Though not a good movie, it’s hard not to respect people who put in an honest effort. I did like that the film remains serious throughout, never trying to offset its shortcomings with comedy. The filmmakers set out to make a horror movie, and regardless of the quality, that’s what they did.

Still, The Wendigo is a movie that squanders any intriguing potential in order to go nowhere. At best, it takes the audience places they’ve already been which were better in comparison. Low budget may explain some of the lesser elements, but ultimately, this is a story fumbled by the very hands trying to lift it high. Maybe their next feature will be a step upward. For now, the disappointment that is The Wendigo is a skippable dud. I can only recommend it to anyone trying to compile a list of this year’s bad found footage films.

Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

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