George (Jake Weber) is a highly-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency. Needing some time away from the city, George, his wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson), and their 10-year-old son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them.
George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road. After George stops to inspect the damage, he's confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time. An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken. When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken it over.
The next day, when they stop at a store in a town near the cabin, a shopkeeper tells Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a deformed beast from Indian folklore who changes from a human to a hideous beast after engaging in cannibalism. The Wendigo also has supernatural powers and can change its appearance at will. The shopkeeper then gives him a small figurine of a Wendigo. Shaken, Miles can't help but think the Wendigo has something to do with the dark forces at work in the woods near the cabin.
Later that day, while sledding together, George suddenly falls to the ground, leaving Miles alone and lost in the woods. Frightened, Miles approaches his dad when he is chased by the wendigo and passes out. He is awakened later by a frightened Kim, who went looking for her family once they didn't come home.
Kim and Miles begin a trek deep into the forest, until they end up at the house, where they find a bloody George crawling towards the car claiming Otis shot him. Frantic, Kim and Miles put George in the car and drive to the nearest hospital. It is revealed that George and Miles were sledding near a shooting range and Otis shot George in the liver with a high powered hunting rifle. George undergoes emergency surgery and Miles walks into the hospital, hallucinates that his father is being assaulted by the Wendigo and faints. He awakens only to find that George has died.
Otis is confronted by the local sheriff, but he kills the sheriff and drives away into the night, being stalked by the wendigo until he crashes into a tree and runs away into the forest, eventually ending up on a road where he is hit by the deputy sheriff's squad car. The movie ends with Otis being carted into the emergency room of the hospital, and being followed by the Indian shopkeeper while Miles watches it all, caressing the Wendigo figurine.Patricia Clarkson as Kim
Jake Weber as George
Erik Per Sullivan as Miles
John Speredakos as Otis
Christopher Wynkoop as Sheriff Tom Hale
Lloyd Oxendine as Elder
Brian Delate as Everett
Daniel Stewart Sherman as Billy
Jennifer Wiltsie as Martha
Maxx Stratton as Brandon
Richard Stratton as Earl
Dash Stratton as Little Otis
Dwayne Navara as Mechanic
Shelly Bolding as Store Owner
Susan Pellegrino as Nurse
James Godwin as Wendigo
The film opened in limited release and was not a major box office attraction.
Critical reception for the film has been mixed.
Roger Ebert gave the film 2 1/2 stars out of 4 stating, ""Wendigo" is a good movie with an ending that doesn't work. While it was not working I felt a keen disappointment, because the rest of the movie works so well". Dave Kehr from New York Times gave the film a positive review stating, "As in his previous films, Mr. Fessenden carefully blurs the line between psychology and the supernatural, suggesting that each is strongly implicated in the other. The rampaging Wendigo may be a manifestation of Miles's incipient Oedipal rage, but at the same time it is a force embedded in nature and history. Such abstract notions may put off fans of the genre in its most elemental, slice- and-dice form. But for those in search of something different, "Wendigo" is a genuinely bone-chilling tale". Felix Vasquez Jr. from Cinema Crazed.com gave the film a positive review praising the film's ending and suspense. AllMovie called the film "effectively creepy" and "surprisingly unsettling", "despite its inherent cheesiness".
Wendigo currently has a 58% 'rotten' rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on fifty reviews.
The film was released on DVD by Live/Artisan on Dec 17, 2002. It was re-released by Cinema Club on Jun 16, 2003.