“If you need any technical advice on death, just give me a holler.”
Last year at Panic Fest I watched a psychological prairie ghost story from director Emma Tammi called The Wind. When I saw this flick on Arrow’s release slate, I thought, “Oh, are they releasing that? Cool.” But the cover art looked … far from apt.
Turns out this isn’t that film but, instead, an atmospheric 1986 stalk-and-slash flick written and directed by Nico Mastorakis (Nightmare at Noon, which even gets name-dropped in this movie) and shot almost entirely on the Greek island of Mykonos.
As Kat Ellinger says in the essay that accompanies the Arrow Video Blu-ray, one interesting thing about this picture is that it doesn’t trade in the usual stereotypes of the stranger in a strange land that had become standard horror movie tropes by the time The Wind hit rental shelves.
There are no unhelpful foreigners, no sinister locals in this flick. In spite of the fact that our writer protagonist (a better-than-she-needs-to-be Meg Foster) travels all the way from Los Angeles to the Greek ghost town of Monemvasia to finish her next book, all she ever encounters there are other Americans.
Ellinger ties this back to a documentary that Mastorakis released as recently as 2018 called Mykonos: The Soul of an Island, in which the director lamented that the problem with Mykonos is the “loud indiscretion of wealth.”
Particularly, that wealth which is brought in by out-of-town holidaymakers who come to the island and “fritter away the amount of money everyday people might invest in a house, just to shower themselves in champagne so they can post their escapades to Instagram,” as Ellinger puts it.
This is underscored by the fact that not only is Meg Foster’s Sian Anderson and outsider, so is her assailant, a fellow “ugly American” in the form of the perfectly-cast Wings Hauser. While Hauser is nothing like a seal of quality under usual circumstances, his predictably jittery, tic-filled performance is right at home playing the unhinged Phil, who, after one taunting phone call, laments, “Why does everybody make me kill them?”
Even property owner Elias Appleby (Robert Morley) isn’t a local. While he married a Greek woman, he tells Sian that he never learned the language because “too much communication ruins a relationship.”
The rest of the film’s modest cast will also look familiar to fans of this kind of thing. Sian’s L.A. boyfriend is played by none other than David McCallum, while the would-be knight in shining armor who shows up in the film’s third act only to take a sickle through the chest is Lifeforce’s Steve Railsback, playing another American who happens to be hanging around on Mykonos while all this is going on.
Sian finds Monemvasia – which Morley’s Elias tells her means “only one way in or out” – a ghost town, inhabited only by herself, other foreigners, and the titular wind. Elias says that the merchants in town make money during the tourist season, then go off to Switzerland to spend it.
While Hauser may be the perfectly cast one here, Foster has to do the vast majority of the film’s heavy lifting as Sian, spending most of her time alone. Luckily, Mastorakis establishes her early on as the kind of tough, independent person who seems like she’d do just fine up against a psychopath like Hauser’s Phil, so we’re never too shocked when she holds her own. “I’m into mystery, murder,” she says, when Phil assumes that she writes romances.
About that wind; by the time Mastorakis directed this flick, ominous wind was already a long-standing staple in European horror movies, going back at least as far as Blood and Black Lace. According to Ellinger, Mastorakis was inspired by the high winds he experienced while filming the 1984 Keir Dullea/Adrienne Barbeau picture The Next One on the island. “In order to recreate this effect,” Ellinger writes, “he rented as many wind machines as he could lay his hands on.”
From its opening voiceover, in which Meg Foster tells a shaggy dog story about Jesus meeting his “father” at the gates of heaven, The Wind sets us up to expect a twist ending. “That’s because you think unexpected endings are brilliant,” David McCallum tells her at the end of her joke. “I prefer normal short stories.”
In this case, that “unexpected ending” comes in the form of the titular wind. Elias warns Sian on the first day that it can “be your friend, or your enemy.” Before the film is over, it is both for her, helping and hampering her own efforts and her attacker’s. As Ellinger writes in the booklet, however, “no matter how many times Sian tries to kill her potential killer, he refuses to die. It’s up to nature and the island to take care of that final retribution for her.”
Given Mastorakis’ feelings toward the island and outsiders, it makes sense that he lets the wind take the final hero’s bow. It also makes sense that he gets the most out of the film’s location, using its beauty and atmosphere both to offset and underscore the dangers that Sian faces. While most of the flick takes place within a few rooms of a villa, Mastorakis and his cinematographer never let us forget that we’re in the stone streets of Monemvasia.
Besides his work as Monster Ambassador here at Signal Horizon, Orrin Grey is the author of several books about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and a film writer with bylines at Unwinnable and others. His stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year and he is the author of two collections of essays on vintage horror film.