Dir. Gregory Jacobs (2007)
After being run off a snowy road, two college students are trapped in a car when the ghosts of people who have died there try to prevent them from leaving.
It takes a hell of a lot for a movie to leave me at a loss for words, as over 300 reviews on this site can attest, but Gregory Jacobs’ 2007 film Wind Chill certainly did so. It’s a bizarre movie, one that alternates between fantastic acting and direction and a barely-coherent convoluted-as-all-hell plot, but it was somehow a pretty good film nonetheless. Jacobs, who built his career as an assistant director to some of the best in the business (most notably Steven Soderbergh), has clearly picked up on a lot of his protégé’s directorial style, crafting a film that was beautiful to look at, and the film actually counts Soderbergh and George Clooney as producers on the project. I guess it helps to have friends, ya know?
Unfortunately, it feels like the film tries a little too hard. It’s an intriguing concept, with a young “couple,” one of whom was lured onto the trip under false pretenses, being stuck in a nonfunctioning car after being run off the road by an overzealous motorer. While this would be terrible enough, as the temperatures are reaching subzero and their sustenance was accidentally left at a gas station, it turns out that this particular spot is haunted, the remnants of the souls of previous passers-by being stuck in limbo in the place in which they died following another horrible car accident. The audience is treated to a timeloop film that is actually done pretty well, though, in typical timeloop-movie fashion, we’re not privy to this information until the very end. While that’s normally the best way to go about a film like this, the film feels like it’s perhaps a bit too jumbled to make sense all the way through. There are no loose ends or anything like that, but it feels like the timeloop piece of it was more of an afterthought, like the delightful anti-chemistry between the unnamed “Girl” and “Guy” (played by Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes, fresh off of The Devil Wears Prada and A History of Violence respectively) would’ve been enough to carry us along without tossing a bunch of ghosts into the mix. Once the phantoms begin to appear, we find ourselves wondering if they even need to be there at all because the story of Girl and Guy was appealing enough as it was.
It’s here I do have to create a caveat: I’m not a big fan of ghost stories. I know, I know, it seems impossible from a guy whose a huge horror nerd to actually never be turned on by ghosts, but I guess they’re just not my thing. It’s why I find it so hard to get into a del Toro movie (probably shouldn’t have said that), I just… I dunno, it doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe that’s why the latter half of the film felt unwelcome to me, because I was enjoying the two leads’ performances so much before they started having to deal with the souls of the departed. Once everything is revealed, sure, the movie works… just not well enough to make a movie I’d want to return to again. Or maybe, then again, I should watch it again, coming in with new expectations that I did not have the first time. Either way, there’s enough to love here for people who are ghost story fans that this could easily be a new favorite. If that’s your thing, the movie comes highly recommended, because it’s a well-told and well-acted film that is a joy to watch if the plot is your thing. I can’t judge it too harshly because I can see clearly what they were going for, and far be it from me to call a movie bad just because I didn’t personally enjoy it. Plus, it’s Christmastime, and it fits into your Christmas playlist perfectly.
Who this movie is for: Ghost story fans, Christmas horror lovers, Card-carrying AAA members
Bottom line: While I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, I can clearly see why some people would be, and this underrated gem should be watched by anyone who enjoys a good ghost story. The leads are enthralling, and I found myself wishing to see a lot more of the interactions between Blunt and Holmes. Jacobs is a fantastic director, showing us exactly what he wanted and withholding anything he didn’t, telling the story to perfection despite all of my personal objections. Give it a shot if you’re a ghost story fan, because this one works great on a dark snowy Christmas evening.