They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Back when video stores ruled the roost for watching movies at home, the same saying could be applied to films. The only thing was you almost HAD to judge a movie by its video screen cover. The internet was not a thing yet and if Fangoria didn’t cover it then you didn’t have a clue what half of the gore fests and monster movies that littered the top shelves were? To this young and impressionable fan of the macabre it was the covers which helped me decide whether I was going to rent a film or not. Often the poster on the oversized plastic boxes would offer wild hopes of hot chick and monster action but the movies themselves would actually provide bad hair and crap rubbery props. Yes, I’m talking about YOU Galaxy of Terror!
Thank God then we live in an age where we can pull out a handy little electronic device and instantly find out a million people’s views on whether a film is worth watching or not. We can find the trailer, then look up trivia on imdb. We no longer have to judge a film by its poster, we can know everything we need to know in an instant.
Or if we so choose we can say fuck that and just judge it by its cover anyway. That’s what I did with The Windmill Massacre.
Nowadays there are a multitude of ways of watching films but its very tempting to get caught in the Netflix trap and just watch whatever pops up on there. This is all very well (and I do love Netflix) but its also very limiting. You will soon find yourself being dicatated to by them what you will be watching next. If there is a modern equivelant to the local video store then it must be the VOD stores you find online. ITunes seems to have about ten new horror movies a week pop up so there’s plenty to choose from there. Unfortunately a lot of them look like they were shot on someone’s iPhone – maybe they were, this is the modern world after all- and many can’t even muster up a decent poster. So when I come across something like this…
…then I have several thoughts all at once.
- Its a well done poster
- The title ain’t great.
- I’d never thought of it before but yes, windmill’s ARE creepy.
- Whoever made this poster is trying to promote “The Miller” as a new slasher icon. I can get behind that.
- Scythes are frickkin’ lethal and if you’re not careful you’re going to hurt someone with that thing.
- Let’s watch it.
So totally judged by cover. Fortunately The Windmill Massacre is a lovely surprise.
Starting with various characters stumbling around Amsterdam they soon enough meet up on some rather depressing looking tour of rural Holland’s windmills. Writer/director Nick Jongerius spends enough time setting up the characters to give them interesting back stories that will relate to events that unfold later on, but no much time that it takes too long for the story to get on with itself. The cast is a pretty good one too, probably better than a film about a killer miller deserves but they’re all game enough. There’s The Office‘s Patrick Baladi as an abysmal father with his long suffering schoolboy son in tow, Noah Taylor as a coke snorting doctor and a few others with terrible secrets. The lead is young Charlotte Beaumont who has the tricky balancing act of being a bit mental, playing an Australian and still being likeable but manages to pull it off rather well. Of course she’s the first one to suspect something is up with the weird old windmill they break down near, but being a nutter no one believes her.
They probably should believe Charlotte though because there’s a hulking great big scythe-welding lunatic looking to disembowel the lot of them. I don’t know if The Miller will become Holland’s answer to Michael, Freddy or Jason but he’s clearly giving it his best shot. He’s got lots of iconic-look things covered: a cool big miller’s coat, the aforementioned scythe, a chain for whipping his victims back to him and a big old melty face that is probably better when kept in the dark. He’s like a cross between the Creeper, Freddy, Cropsy from The Burning, the Grim Reaper and Windy Miller from Camberwick Green. He’s very good at killing and Jongerius doesn’t shy away from the red stuff with lots of intestinal tracts spillage, heads pulled off, weird drowning and a head stomp that will give you a migraine.
The Miller also seems to have some kind of mental link to the terrible things his victims have done in the past. This gives this slasher a bit more of a metaphysical twist than your usual mindless mass murderers. It does remind me a bit of the old Amicus anthology films where a bunch of immoral characters have their comeuppance, but here it’s at the hands of one person rather than Father Christmas or a rubber plant or what have you. The sins of the victims aren’t anything new or unpredictable, much like the film as a whole, but that doesn’t mean they don’t add something more to the usual slasher proceedings. It means The Miller shares a bit of a trait with old Pinhead which is no bad thing. He too was a fan of chains so maybe they’re related or in the same hobby club.
The Windmill Massacre has some very good production values for what surely must be a fairly low budget film, unless the Netherlands film board got carried away. It’s beautifully shot (film makers must be blessing drone makers for all the ariel shots they can now get) and the sets all look suitably grim and authentic. Plus the opening scenes in Amsterdam help set up a feeling of being in a particular place in the world. Add in the decent acting and we end up with a solid little horror well above what you’d expect of a film no one has probably ever heard of.
So I shall do this again, pick a film based purely on its cover art. I can only hope the next one is half as fun as this is.