"Wind Chill", from all appearances, looks like another one of those little horror flicks you've never heard of that wind up on the shelves of your local video store. However, the film - which did spend a week in theatres - has bigger backing: produced by Steven Soderberg and George Clooney, the picture is directed by Soderberg protégé Gregory Jacobs (Jacobs previously directed the Soderberg-produced "Criminal" and has been the second unit director on all of Soderberg's films.)
The film stars "Devil Wears Prada" actress Emily Blunt as a girl (both main characters have no names) hitching a ride home with a guy (Ashton Holmes) who she doesn't know very well. The two have an edgy banter and she begins to realize that he knows a bit more about her than he should, like the fact that she has eyeglasses, which she never wears outside her dorm.
The two continue to be standoffish even after a pit stop, but things turn more chilly (literally) when they slide off the road when avoiding a car in the midst of an argument. When they wake up, they find themselves in a completely isolated, wooded area. Freezing, they look to find the tire tracks of the car they swerved to avoid or any signs of...anyone - and find nothing. Meanwhile, there's also the matter of her growing suspicion of him, as she finds out he doesn't even live near her.
Although one question gets answered, the film poses a few others: who are the strange people who the two see walking through the woods? Are they seeing things due to the bitter cold, or are they being visited by something else? Will they make it to the morning, or freeze in the dark night? The film does an excellent job revealing parts of the puzzle, bit-by-bit. Not only does it do that well, but the film does a magnificent job of generating a brilliantly creepy and cold atmosphere, with a great score from Clint Mansell, stellar production design from Howard Cummings and excellent cinematography by Dan Lausten ("Silent Hill", "Brotherhood of the Wolf"). The only element of the film's visuals that are not outstanding are the visual effects, which are merely okay. The performances by Blunt and Holmes are also excellent, as both deliver compelling performances and bring more depth to their characters than you would usually find in this sort of film.
Overall, I really liked this moody, subtle (those looking for a more graphic horror picture will be disappointed; while this is an R-rated film, I wouldn't consider it a "hard R") supernatural thriller quite a bit. It's a more old-fashioned supernatural film similar in tone to something along the lines of "The Others", and Jacobs does a very fine job making a fairly talky and rather cramped (much of the movie takes place with the two actors in their car or a small space) movie haunting and usually involving. It's really too bad that this was given such a minimal theatrical release, as I thought this was a pleasant surprise.
VIDEO: "Wind Chill" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame, with both options accessible from the main menu. The film's frigid visuals are presented well by this terrific presentation from the studio. Even in the film's darkest sequences, detail is still quite good. Sharpness and detail are consistently solid throughout the show. While some slight edge enhancement is spotted a couple of times, the picture otherwise looked crisp and clean. Understandably, given the material, the film's color palette remains extremely subdued, but looked accurately presented here.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite effective, using the surrounds well for subtle effects and ambience. Overall, the soundtrack isn't particularly aggressive, but its subtle details do give viewers the creeps and the feeling of being out in the cold. Audio quality is fine, with crisp effects, well-recorded dialogue and a rich, full-sounding score.
EXTRAS: "Frozen Set" is a documentary that runs about 15 minutes that follows the cast and crew as they attempt to film a movie in brtual conditions that were often below zero. When the movie went from shooting exteriors to interiors, the chilly weather didn't end: the set was turned into a giant icebox in order to try and keep the cold feel for the actors and have breath visible.
Final Thoughts: "Wind Chill" isn't without a few bumps in the plot (mainly in the last third), but I really liked the film otherwise, as the film remains superbly moody and the acting is above average for the genre. The DVD offers excellent audio/video quality and a couple of extras. Recommended.
The Film B+