My notes on The Windmill Massacre
Alfred Hitchcock said – in reference to Foreign Correspondent – that if your story is set in Holland, you should work windmills and tulips into the plot. This Dutch-made horror movie misses out on tulips but manages to feature canals, the red light district of Amsterdam and Anne Frank’s house in the opening minutes and then gets out on a polder for a trip to a mill that’s a gateway to Hell guarded by a hulking monster miller who once made a deal with the Devil. The first victim even gets his head squashed by being stomped on with heavy clogs.
After vignettes to introduce the characters, seven variously troubled tourists get on a coach driven by genial Abe (Bart Klever, of De Poel) for a trip to see some historic windmills. The coach doors close with a screech-squeak that sounds like a Texas Chain Saw Massacre sound effect. Australian nanny Jennifer (Charlotte Beaumont) – who is fleeing the police after bashing her employer over the head with a vase because he found she was using forged papers – glimpses her dead, abusive father (whom she burned to death in a caravan) in the road and stops the coach in the middle of nowhere, near a mill which isn’t on the map. Jackson (Ben Batt), a jittery Royal Marine who drunkenly killed a hooker the night before, is scythed and squashed by the miller, but sole witness Jennifer isn’t believed by the others … though a disgraced doctor (Noah Taylor) finds a manuscript that explains the legend of the miller and Japanese guy Takeshi (Tanroh Ishida) works out that they’re all sinners being harvested for Hell (he says ‘jigoku’, evoking the classic Japanese horror film).
A supernatural slasher take on And Then There Were None, this features characters who harbour guilty secrets which torment them before they get got; indeed, Taylor plays a doctor who drunkenly botches an operation, which is exactly the situation of one of Agatha Christie’s victims. There’s a neat device whereby Ruby (Fiona Hampton), a Japanese-speaking ex-model, is the only person who can talk with Takeshi, who has the best grasp on what’s happening, but keeps not translating enough of his warnings to be of any help. The sole innocent seems to be Curt (Adam Thomas Wright), haemophiliac son of a short-fuse businessman (Patrick Baladi) who drips blood throughout. There’s even a harkback to the Belgian Devil’s Nightmare, another Low Countries Seven Deaded Sinners movie. Director Nick Jongerious – who co-write with Chris W.Mitchell (De Poel, Frankenstein’s Army) and Suzy Quid – and a mostly-British cast keep up the off-kilter suspense as inevitable doom overcomes everyone and there’s just enough moral complexity – some of the sinners are justified or truly penitent – to keep it from being another movie in which horrid people are gruesomely offed for our viewing pleasure.
It’s almost an old-fashioned gothic morality play slasher, using physical gore effects, but spends as much time on its character-building as explicit disembowelling. Along with Welp and De Poel, this suggests an interesting, small-scale Dutch horror movement – getting out of Amsterdam and into the sub-sea-level, underpopulated regions which constitute the rest of the country and are depicted in these films as threatening limbos where urban folks come to grief.
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