I went into The Windmill Massacre hoping for a new old-school slasher franchise-starter, in the vein of something like Hatchet, say. But, director, Nick Jongerius, is playing a different game.
The film opens in Amsterdam with a fluid set of character introductions to establish our ensemble. We’ve got the young Australian with a dark past (Charlotte Beaumont), the workaholic father (Patrick Baladi) taking his son (Adam Thomas Wright) on holiday, a marine on leave with his unit (Ben Batt), and so on. As their stories start to interlock, they are brought together for a bus tour of some of Holland’s rural landmarks. But, when they break down near a dilapidated windmill, talk of the legend of a murderous miller doesn’t exactly calm the nerves.
It’s a solid set-up and the international roster of characters in a foreign land is a nice touch. Jongerius has likened his approach to the ensemble as that of a 70s disaster movie, which is case in point that he has more on his mind than just Freddy and Jason. The cast are strong and certainly stand above your generic slasher movie performances, partly because they’re actually given something to do.
There’s a lot of time given over to exploring each character and Jongerius and his writers, Chris W. Mitchell and Suzy Quid, avoid generic archetypes in favour of more layered creations. It works well, but it does distract slightly from the horrors to come. Which is a shame because Jongerius and the production team have got some neat ideas. The killer is well designed, and his specific profession makes The Miller stand out from other death-dealing big-screen brutes. The kills don’t quite do justice to the interesting villain, but there are still some squelchy treats to be had and they’re well spaced out amongst the more mundane kills.
Jongerius has spoken about his desire to avoid making The Windmill Massacre a straightforward slasher film, and to instead lean towards the supernatural in the character’s origin story. This also applies to the execution and, like I said, Jongerius doesn’t necessarily give us all the slasher tropes we may be waiting for. The characters take precedence over the kills and the film subverts the final girl tradition for something a bit less action-packed, although a cruel turn of fate means we’re not left short of splatter. There’s also an earlier twist that happily caught me off guard, and provided another interesting subversion of conventional slasher movie character dynamics.
There’s a lot to like about The Windmill Massacre, but it didn’t quite pull together for me. It’s more satisfying in hindsight than it was actually watching it, but that’s something I think a second watch may settle. But, until then, I recommend Jongerius’ film, just don’t go in expecting it to play by the rules.