Atmospheric Dutch horror offering The Windmill (AKA The Windmill Massacre) blends elements of slasher, classic Amicus Productions and Hammer Film Productions, supernatural, and old dark house films to create a brutal but fun chiller that dishes up plenty of gore and grue. Director Nick Jongerius, who produced Frankenstein’s Army (2013), makes a solid feature film debut at the helm.
A small busload of passengers assembles in Amsterdam for a countryside tour of windmills, conducted by bus driver Abe (Bart Klever). Young Australian Jennifer (Charlotte Beaumont) is on the run after the man who employed her as an au pair discovers her false identity, doctor Nicholas (Noah Taylor) is on a sabbatical from his physician duties, former model Ruby (Fiona Hampton) is trying to get back into the business by photographing windmills for a calendar, Douglas (Patrick Baladi) and his son Curt (Adam Thomas Wright) are on a spur-of-the-moment father-and-son bonding trip, Jackson (Ben Batt) is a military serviceman with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder on the lam, and Takashi (Tanroh Ishida) is on a journey paying tribute to his ancestors.
Naturally, the bus breaks down in an area where cell phone service is unavailable. The passengers see a windmill not on the local maps nearby and two of them decide to look for help there, which is, of course, a big mistake. It is then that The Miller (Kenan Raven), the otherworldly villain of The Windmill, makes his brutal presence known in an attack that shows the film will not be shy on graphic kills. The group is forced to leave the bus and everyone holes up in an old building for shelter for the night but unwise decisions lead them into the path of the waiting diabolical entity.
Each of the tour bus passengers has something troubling from their past that they are trying to escape from or suppress, and one of the film’s limitations is that sometimes those incidents are rushed in their telling. Jennifer gets the most screen time for her story and Ruby perhaps the second most, which leads to the interesting point that the women in this film are elevated to a higher level than that of the typical slasher film. They are the most level-headed and caretaking of the characters when things go south. The writing team of Chris W. Mitchell and Suzy Quid (working from an original idea by Nick Jongerius) are to be commended for breathing life into these two characters and making them interesting rather than settling on them being screaming, scantily clad cliches.
Other areas in which the screenplay rises above that of many other slasher movies is in the surprises it holds and its attempt to have us find sympathy for all of the ill-fated bus passengers in some degree. The reveal of The Miller and his occult background are divulged early on, but The Windmill still holds a good share of unexpected events. After viewers learn about the legend of The Miller, the film focuses on what the passengers did, what they are up to, and how they will handle and possibly survive their grim situation.
Nick Jongerius directs The Windmill with aplomb, creating an eerie, nightmarish atmosphere. Some suspense might be lessened because viewers can tell who the next victim will be; to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into detail as to how or why, but the reason for this is an important part of the story. Still, wondering exactly what their method of demise might be does hold interest, and Jongerius keeps the film moving along without bogging down, infusing his tale with a creepy ambience.
The international cast – most of the players are from the United Kingdom – does a fine job. Though some characters are a bit more in the stock vein than others, all the actors bring energy and believable performances into their roles.
The Windmill certainly borrows from its fright-flick predecessors but it contains original ideas that elevated it well above average fare, in my opinion. Cowriter Chris W. Mitchell also co-wrote Frankenstein’s Army, which I also enjoyed; I’m excited to see what he and director Nick Jongerius each have in store for horror film fans in the future.
The Windmill: (4 / 5)