We carry on with our After Dark coverage by tackling "Wind Walkers," a title that's going to take advantage of some fairly underused folklore to drive its scares. But can the addition of some Native American lore give this the kind of spark we expect of After Dark by now? Or is this a two-dog year for the franchise?
"Wind Walkers" follows a soldier home from captivity in wartime. This former POW has discovered that his dear friend--and fellow POW--has escaped his military bonds altogether, now officially absent without leave. This is a disturbing enough revelation for our homecoming soldier, but while out on an annual hunting trip--the first he's been able to join in some time--with some of his family and his friend's father, he discovers that there's a more disturbing revelation waiting. The hunting party has just come under attack by the produce of a curse, one that may have a connection to his missing friend.
A disturbing notion by any stretch, but one that's sufficiently unfamiliar to be worth checking out. At least, it was, until about the first minute, in which an elderly Native American gent lectures the audience directly about how his culture's "young men" have "forgotten the stories" and would be first to be "struck down by the wind walkers." That's ludicrously heavy-handed...but considering they use that to lay into a story about a virus in the United States. It's extent is unclear; are we looking at the strangest impetus yet for a zombie apocalypse tale? Or something in the "PC scold" vein?
However, after the first rather disjointed five minutes or so, the movie turns into "Predator." No, seriously, it does. From a shooting location in Florida that looks just like a jungle to an invisible monster that kills its prey and hangs it from trees for our hunting party to find, this movie watches a whole lot like a backwoods civilian version of "Predator." At least, it does for a while, until it unexpectedly jumps back to "three days earlier." Throw in a hurricane that may be coming in and things get stranger still.
Watching this movie gives you the distinct feeling that the folks behind it had like four or five good ideas for a movie, but had no idea which one to go with so they threw them all in at once and hoped it would gel together. We've got hints at a Native American legend that kicks off a zombie apocalypse with a virus, a Native American legend that turns into Predator, an "Apocalypse Now" style operation that involves a hunt for a local hunter gone missing...plot threads keep cropping up for the first 20 minutes, and just which they're going with is unclear well into the film's first third.
The plot may be disjointed, but the execution isn't terrible. There are all sorts of unexpected twists in here, things appearing out of nowhere and vanishing almost as quickly. Some good moments in here will prove reward for astute and careful viewing, which is hard not to like. I spent a large portion of this movie puzzled, but unable to not follow along; there's a lot to see here, and though much of it won't immediately make sense, it's not hard to hold out the hope that, eventually, it will.
The ending does manage to bring things together reasonably well--the newer episodes of Doctor Who often managed to pull confusion together in the last minutes to make a surprisingly satisfying result, and this puts me in mind of that--and the end result should prove well worth watching, about the best you can ask from any movie.
Special features are--and I think you can see a pattern by now--nonexistent, without even a subtitle or deleted scene other than the "play movie" button at the beginning.
"Wind Walkers" isn't the best you'll find in this round of the After Dark series, but it's certainly no dog. It misses being a dog by virtue of a sound third act. It would have been better had it been a bit more focused in the early going, but it still turned out reasonably well given the circumstances.