April 29th, 2007
When one hears of a movie featuring up-and-comer Emily Blunt in front of the camera and George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh behind the scenes is being unceremoniously dumped into a few theatres with very little fanfare and almost no advertising, one might suspect the distributor has made some kind of mistake.
Certainly, if they can give such plebian distractions as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “The Grudge" major support, someone there could see the benefits of a film by the team behind such first-rate films as "Far From Heaven" and "Syriana."
You’d be wrong.
It seems, every once a while, a studio knows exactly what it’s doing. By giving the movie a rudimentary release, they are protecting themselves from losing even more of their money on this debacle. This, of course, excuses them only when it comes to the final product, not for greenlighting this mess, which clearly was a mess even in script form. It’s a wonder a work so fallow in story or logic could get purchased, let alone produced. As just one example, the lead characters are so worthless to the writers that they were never given proper names. In fact, not a single character has a name. They are just called what they are. Boy. Girl. Snow Plow Driver. Police Officer. If a character has a name, they have some kind of history and they have some kind of value. The fact that neither writer (it is unclear if this was a collaboration or if one writer was brought in to rewrite the other) could be bothered to spend any time trying to create something as simple as a name just shows how anonymous and insignificant they are.
In “Wind Chill” Blunt plays an engineering major at an unnamed Pennsylvania college who, two days before Christmas, is in desperate need of a ride back home to an unnamed town in Delaware. Her lack of general planning abilities should be apparent right away, when we see her during the opening credits walking across the snow-filled campus in a knee-length skirt better suited for an NYU student walking through Washington Square Park in the spring. Luckily, she is able to find on the campus ride share board someone who happens to be going in her direction (“Going to Delaware” reads the sign, completely ignoring the state, despite its relative smallness, is more than a hundred miles long from its Northernmost top to its Southernmost tip), only to discover her ride is a young man (played by the bland Ashton Holmes) whom she shares a class with. Once on the road, a six hour journey, Girl ignores Boy by chatting on her cell phone incessantly, Boy gets uppity he is being ignored, Girl gets stuck in a gas station bathroom, Girl discovers Boy might have more than a passing interest in her, Boy decides to take a less-traveled road that is purportedly a short cut, Boy and Girl are run off the road and smash into a snow drift, and Boy and Girl must work together to get through the night as an ever-increasing series of strange things start happening to them, which are somehow connected to other incidents on the same road that all happened on the same day (December 23) over the years.
While “Wind Chill” is an original creation, it feels like a short story adaptation that was stretched out to feature length. Had this been a short film, a lean and mean twenty minutes bereft of all the small moments where nothing of importance happens, there is a possibility something worth spending time with could have existed. Alas, all we have is a pedestrian-paced horror film lacking any real chills or thrills, with two decent performances from Blunt and Hal Hartley regular Martin Donovan as a racist, sexist cop who is the key to the strange events.
Everything is attempted to be explained through a quick and early mention of eternal recurrence, which is an interesting concept but is never fully integrated into the story, like a college freshman who was supposed to read his Nietzsche for his Philosophy 101 class but ended up Googling the man’s name and cribbing off his Wikipedia entry. “Wind Chill” is all surface and no depth, with an incongruous ending that makes for an unsatisfying ending to an indecisive movie.
For once, the dump was the right thing to do.
My rating: D