Canadian Film Festival 2023: “Wintertide”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The horror film genre has always evolved. Starting with “Freakshow” (1932), which was been banned in 43 countries, Hitchcock’s, “Birds” or “Psycho,” they helped our favorite genre to enter a new era that turned out to be a very successful one. Therefore, the new filmmakers may not try to achieve the stardom of the abovementioned titles but still make an attempt to become memorable.

John Barnard’s “Wintertide” centers around a volunteer watcher person named Beth (Niamh Carolan) who lives in an isolated northern city that literally cannot defeat the plague of people that transform into zombie-like creatures. As she is getting affected more rapidly by the infection, she realizes her connection to some, as those who get closer to her become the same as everyone else. Not knowing what else to do, she knows perhaps, finding her father may fulfill her curiosity and answer the pressing questions. But the more she pushes towards the revelation, the city turns into a dangerous phantom city with seemingly no way out of recovery.

The film already starts with people walking like a zombie. But they don’t eat flesh nor act as aggressively as we expect to see in zombies. These creatures look more depressing, as the target they seek is not what they anticipate. Quite strange tendencies in zombies, but it is more fun to watch them, as you can imagine. Screenplay by John Barnard and Carrie-May Siggins strictly focuses on Beth herself and her relationship with her estranged father. We don’t know just yet whether he was turned into a zombie, whether he is alive or dead. But our protagonist hopes he is, so we kind of fall into the same trap – into the never stopping hope.

Beth is not someone you would follow or trust. She is supposed to take medicines to control the pandemic but does not do that. She thinks – why should she take one if it did not help her mother? The question might be valid, but that does not mean the rest of the town should suffer for it, isn’t it? However, as the story unfolds, we realize there is a closure to the story and an answer we all hope to receive. And there is one, mind you. It’s not just what you expect, though. And that is what makes “Wintertide” different from other horror flicks – it’s simple, has less bloodshed if equal to none. It’s a character-centric story that allows us to connect with Beth and follow her steps, whatever it might take. But be careful, though. Do not get attached too close to her. Because she is not a typical hero but a villain as well.

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