‘The Windmill’: Film Review

THE WINDMILL - Still - H - 2016
XLrator Media
An alternate spin on an overly familiar genre.

Things go very wrong for a busload of tourists visiting Holland’s historic sites in Nick Jongerius’ unconventional slasher movie.

Dutch filmmaker Nick Jongerius’ feature debut appropriately enough concerns a windmill haunted by an entity preying upon travelers passing through the picturesque countryside, but it never manages to connect the high concept with effective characterization. Home entertainment formats may prove most receptive to The Windmill, where it could endure as a cultish curiosity.

Laying low in Amsterdam following a psychotic break that led to a tragic family altercation in Australia, Jennifer (Charlotte Beaumont) bides her time under an assumed name as an au pair for a wealthy family until her employer discovers her secret, leading to a violent confrontation that forces her back on the run. Seeking to flee the city, she hops aboard a bus bound for a tour of nearby historic windmill sites, along with a motley assortment of other foreigners, including British soldier Jackson (Ben Batt), retired U.K. physician Nicholas (Noah Taylor), Japanese university student Takashi (Tanroh Ishida) and high-powered businessman Douglas (Patrick Baladi) and his teenage son Curt (Adam Thomas Wright). Bus driver Abe (Bart Klever) and photographer Ruby (Fiona Hampton), on assignment to shoot windmills for a kitschy calendar company, are the only locals aboard.

Running low on her psych meds, Jennifer begins to experience periodic hallucinations on the bus trip, leading Nicholas to alert the other passengers to her fragile state of mind. When the bus breaks down on a remote stretch of road between tourist sites, she volunteers to try and find help at a nearby windmill barely visible beyond a nearby wood, since they’re now stranded outside cellphone range. Jackson agrees to accompany her, but they never make it as far as the mill after he’s cut down in midstride by a terrifying figure. Jennifer frantically returns to the bus, but the other passengers dismiss her warnings regarding the attack, moving into a nearby shack to pass the night, a decision that may prove fateful for everyone concerned.

Writer-director Jongerius latches onto a potentially intriguing premise with the tale of a windmill haunted by a spectral miller and his demonic pact to exploit hapless victims who wander into his domain. Along with his co-writers, however, Jongerius neglects to provide his villain with sufficient detail and motivation to create a uniquely impressive character, although the windmill setting provides the opportunity for some squeamishly entertaining methods of eliminating the miller’s victims.

Shooting half the running time in low-light situations after nightfall doesn’t benefit the plotline either, which is further muddled by symbolically fraught scenes that depict the moral transgressions that have led the characters to their confrontations with the miller. Performances are adequate for the film’s scale, but deliver little that’s memorable.  

Distributor: XLrator Media
Production companies: Pellicola, ETA Films, Global Film Partners
Cast: Charlotte Beaumont, Bart Klever, Patrick Baladi, Ben Batt, Fiona Hampton, Tanroh Ishida, Adam Thomas Wright, Noah Taylor, Kenan Raven
Director: Nick Jongerius
Screenwriters: Nick Jongerius, Suzy Quid, Chris W. Mitchell
Producers: Daniel Koefoed, Nick Jongerius
Executive producers: Spencer Pollard, Michael Chapman, Rob Van Den Berg, Anne-Paul Houwen
Director of photography: Bart Beekman
Production designer: Dimitri Merkoulov
Editor: Jeffrey De Vore

Not rated, 85 minutes