Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monstrous Mayhem: WENDIGO (1978)

Not to be confused with that Larry Fessenden flick, this is a regional B-movie about the curse of Native American myth Wendigo lensed in Wyoming. Frank, Connie and Eric are flown by helicopter to a remote location for some moose hunting. Their party increases by one when the helicopter pilot crashes his vehicle after he is hit by a strong gust of wind as he is leaving. No one seems to mind that they have no way back and hunting guides Defago and Billy continue on as normal. But it seems Eric has ulterior motives on this trip as he wants to snatch some treasure on an ancient Indian burial ground (never a good idea). Billy, the resident Native American, warns against it and tells the story of how Wendigo came into being after an Indian chief failed to feed his people and was burned alive. Well, naturally, the white man doesn't pay heed to this Native American superstition and soon the ghost monster Wendigo is out get 'em.


Wendigo attacks in big gusts of wind here and it makes sense because this film blows. This is some grade A Bill Rebane-style film making which means lots of walking in the woods and talking and then more walking in the woods. Nothing of note happens until the last ten minutes when Wendigo, who is seen on screen for a total of 3 seconds, causes a few guys to explode, one guy to fall off the cliff and makes Connie's head explode. Don't get too excited as all the effects are cheap. The funniest thing about the movie is Van Washburn Jr. playing Defago. He decides to do a Wyoming hunting guide with a Louisiana bayou style accent ("We go now an' BEE-LEE follow on foot").

His helper Billy is also a riot whose real Indian name would be He Who Walks with Cliché. There is this ridiculous bit where Billy strips down to a loin cloth and does some sort of ritual before stumbling upon Connie naked in the woods. So what do two nekkid folks do when they meet up? Get it on, of course! The filmmakers get points deducted for, sadly, only showing Connie's back. For shame! The most interesting thing is that one of the stock music tracks is the same one that Romero used a few years later in the Jordy Verrell segment of CREEPSHOW. The strangest thing is this flirtatious exchange between Connie and Mike the pilot.

Connie: You can serve all the apple sauce in the world but it's never apple pie.
Mike: Not even a slice?
Connie: It's not supposed to be on the menu.
Mike: I see. Well, I guess that lays our spoons on the table, doesn't it? 
But, you know, I always carry a fork just in case.

To quote Jack Burton, "I don't even know what the hell that means!" Of course, the most unforgivable sin is that they only show the monster on screen for, I kid you not, 3 seconds. The "clearest" look you get at the beast is during the end credits (see right). I can endure long conversations as long as you give me some crazy beast to make up for it. Not the case here. Director Paul Kener fails on every level here. Below is a video of the film's special effects highlight. For anyone wondering, what is going on here is a guy is trying to escape but the darn Wendigo wind sucks him up into the air and causes him to explode. Somewhere a field is missing its scarecrow.


Amazingly, Kener made one more film, a slasher called SAVAGE WATER. Amusingly, he has Connie reading a book in this with that title and "See the amazing motion picture" printed on the back. I'll get right on that. In the meantime, marvel at this amazing box art that brings up more questions than answers. First, nothing that cool happens in the movie. Second, why is a guy in a prison jumpsuit bursting from the skull? Third, who builds a train track into a large skull with only a one tooth gap opening? Questions, questions.

US Video (ha!) sure knew how to sell 'em I guess as evidenced by that and this artwork for Kener's SAVAGE WATER. Props to the 12-year-old who drew them.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Hey, so do you have a copy of this? My father was actually in it, and I'm pretty stoked to see it, even if its terrible.

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