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Film Review: The Windmill Massacre @ FrightFest 2016

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★★★★☆

Nick Jongerius gives the slasher genre a revitalized push in this surprisingly thoughtful Dutch-set horror. 

It’s rare that a new release breaks through the decades of slasher movie logic to deliver something actually original, and while The Windmill Massacre might not exactly be the freshest killer thriller around, it certainly has enough exciting ideas to keep you guessing throughout. 

The windmill in question is found, surprise surprise, in the Dutch countryside, where a bus filled with an eclectic group of tourists - from a disgraced surgeon to an Australian teen on the run - randomly breaks down. Forced to fend for themselves without phone signal, the group are soon set-upon by the murderous Miller, driving them each to face their darkest sins. 

Hapless civilians meet their bloody end, an strangely-modelled psychopath wields a very large weapon: it’s that classic slasher movie set-up that’s been around for generations. Where Jongerius’s efforts starts to differ however is in its gradual reveals. To talk about them in too much detail here would be unfair to screenwriter Chris W. Mitchell, but the reality of this genre picture is much deeper than meets the eye. 

Underneath the basic cat-and-mouse game is a clever inner twist that both questions the characters’ morality, and helps to deliver a much-needed arse-kick to a genre that has otherwise been feeling a little too bland recently. It’s nothing overly huge, but stands as just enough of an addition to the story to keep things interesting. 

Don’t get me wrong, this certainly isn’t Citizen Kane; the characters are still relatively one-note with a few stand-outs, and the actual events themselves (bar said twist) are nothing really that special beyond the usual murder-by-numbers plotting. Jongerius is just very, very good at delivering the usual beats with a knowing spot of humour. 

A huge part of what keeps the fun flowing too is the central villain, The Miller, a gigantic lumbering force of nature, capable of much more than simply swinging a scythe. It’s a neat design in the vein of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, and although he never proves to be quite as menacing as either, he’s certainly an extra tick against Jongerius’s name. 

The only other thing left to question is the film’s title: a hammy direct-to-TV type hackjob that completely ignores what the film is really about. True, going in blind helps to ramp up the surprises but in labeling his film this way, Jongerius really sells himself short. 

With any luck it’ll be changed before wide-release, because The Windmill Massacre deserves to be seen. It delivers slasher fans with something they haven’t had in a while: intelligence, and for that everyone involved must be praised. 

The Windmill Massacre was screened as part of HorrorChannel FrightFest 2016. More info on the festival and its films can be found here.




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