Every opportunity ‘The Windmill’ has, it squanders

Foreign Film 4-24.jpgIt’s rare to have a slasher so frontloaded with exposition that it feels rushed in its last half, but here we have “The Windmill,” a Dutch shocker too dumb to reach its ambitions. Set in Holland, the movie introduces viewers to its characters systematically, giving them, at the very least, a motivation for being there and boarding the Windmill tour bus, driven by Abe (Bart Klever).

The wealthy employer of Jennifer (Charlotte Beaumont) discovers she has an alias and calls the cops on her. Takashi (Tanroh Ishida) is running from his grandmother and his home. Douglas (Patrick Baladi), a distracted father at best and a murderer at worst, is taking a holiday with his son Curt (Adam Thomas Wright). Jackson (Ben Batt) gets into some trouble at an Amsterdam brothel and bolts. The desperate-for-work photographer Ruby (Fiona Hampton) takes a windmill tourist calendar gig and hops on the tour and Nicholas is a coke-addicted surgeon on a “creative sabbatical,” running from his guilt over killing a patient while high.

Watching “The Windmill” check off these character beats like a script supervisor is more tiring than reading that last paragraph. Its workmanlike exposition that, ultimately, hurts more than it helps. The effort in it all, though, is admirable, and for the first thirty minutes, I was convinced the movie was trying something different. The monster, miller Hendrich (Kenan Raven), is engaging and has an interesting conceit. There was room for the cast to grow, especially Jennifer. Horror has a history of strong heroines, after all.

Needless to say, Jennifer is not one of them. The movie’s earliest missed opportunity involves her central conflict. 30 minutes in, we learn that she lit her trailer on fire and burnt her abusive father and little brother alive. Here’s the catch: she pulled her brother out before only for him to scamper back in behind her back. As the movie’s central monster kills only those who feel guilty about a past deed, the death of her brother is an easy way out for the movie. It’s simpler and more nuanced to explore her feelings about killing her father. The brother is besides the point and the movie, in its brutal final minutes, all but admits this, falling back on old, nihilistic slasher tropes instead of reaching its potential.

This was a movie with promise, something interesting to offer. The kills are vicious and often hilarious, but the tone is dire enough to breed real tension. That’s a winning combination not just for slashers, but horror in general. By the time Jennifer is meathooked through the skull, I found myself wishing I could relive those moments I thought “The Windmill” had potential. It’s important to face facts, though. “The Windmill” is another dumb chop-’em-up with nothing interesting to offer beyond gallons of blood.