There is a certain allure to limited release films, almost like being able to see it in a theater makes you part of a privileged little club. Horror fans can be proud to say that they were able to see Behind the Mask or even something like Return to Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a theater when many never even knew it was playing.
But there is another kind of limited release, more commonly known as a “Studio Dump”. These are films that open in a handful of theaters even though on paper they sound like big releases. Wind Chill is one such film.
Unlike an independent film like Behind the Mask, Wind Chill is a film with a big studio (Tri-Star) behind it, a fairly big star (Emily Blunt, who co-starred in Devil Wears Prada, one of last year’s biggest hits), and none other than George Clooney himself as a producer. So why is it only being released on 50 screens?
Well, probably because it’s a terrible film.
The film is about a guy and a girl (actually, Guy and Girl, as they are credited) who are en route to Delaware (this should be your first clue that you are in for one boring ass ride) during a winter storm. Guy suddenly takes a detour, claiming it’s a scenic shortcut. But, shockingly, the car breaks down, and now they are in the middle of nowhere.
What follows is basically a cycle of three scenes. Girl and Guy argue in the car, Girl sees “something” and goes to investigate, and Guy and Girl talk more civilly and try to figure out a way to survive. That’s the entire movie. Occasionally they get up close to a ghost who will do something scary like stand still and make a weird face, or spit an eel out of its mouth, but for the most part they just walk around in the background. For 80 minutes. Finally, the movie ends.
It’s not a total loss. Clint Mansell delivers a moody score, and the brief snippets of makeup effects are worth a look. And Blunt is appealing enough as an actress that we sort of like her despite being a complete witch for the first half hour or so of the film. But ultimately, the film just doesn’t have anything to it. The back-story for the ghosts is clumsily inserted (and hardly interesting anyway), Girl doesn’t really DO anything throughout the film, and several things are left unresolved. Hell, it doesn’t even deserve an R rating. There is no nudity, profanity, or gore. The MPAA gave the film an R for disturbing images and violence, of which there is really none (Guy swings a metal rod of some sort at a ghost? That’s about it). They would have done better to give the film a PG-13, so some teens could go see it. Considering the success of The Grudge, Boogeyman, etc, they would almost certainly enjoy the idea of a ghost guy walking past a snowbound car every few minutes.
Everyone else though: save yourself the trouble of trying to find a theater that’s actually bothering to run this thing and re-watch Carnival of Souls (which this film often resembles).