Windigo, the creature that appears in Scott Cooper’s psychological horror Antlers (2021), comes from the tales told among the indigenous people of America. But what exactly is the monster and how is it portrayed in the movie?
What is Windigo?
Wendigo is described as malevolent monster that possesses human beings, causing aggressive behavior, increased – and irrepressible – hunger, and eventually waking up cannibalistic and murderous instincts. Descriptions of Windigo mention the creature reeking of death and rot, and looks of a starved giant with bones pushing against its grey, decaying skin.
As seen in Antlers (2021), Windigo appears to use the body of one of the characters as a kind of vessel. Similarly to a fellow forest spirit Moder from Nordic mythology, Windigo appears to be a humanoid creature with gigantic antlers and claws (there’s a cool overview of how the monster was made, step-by-step, published by Stan Winston School of Character Arts).
That portrayal, however, isn’t on par with the original descriptions of Windigo.
Research locates the roots of the Windigo beliefs in today’s Northern Canada. The creature predominantly occupies legends among various Indigenous Americans, including the Ojibwe, the Cree, the Nakapi, the Saulteaux, and the Innu.
Given the harsh living conditions, the monster was probably an imaginary reflection of the everyday reality – the common problems of famine, starvation, and blistering cold. Like many other creatures appearing in mythologies around the world, Windigo too has a nasty habit of interfering with human life. Real-life cases of psychosis, caused by what was described as possession by Windigo spirit, were also reported.
What does Windigo represent in mythology?
Aside from the way Windigos refer to the hardship of living in the ice-covered terrains, and uninviting forests, the creatures also represent the fear of the ultimate means of survival – cannibalism. As mentioned before, people possessed by Windigo are prone to aggressive behavior and begin to behave less like humans. Still, in some versions of the story – when Windigo is seen as a humanoid giant – the creature possesses craftsmanship skills that allow it to dismember bodies with tools. Yeah, handy guy, right?
While there’s a very direct, verbatim way to read it, there’s also a symbolic meaning of greed and never having enough. In humble cultures where scarce resources were their everyday bread, excess food was considered not only a luxury but something contemptible.
Furthermore, the creature also symbolizes alienation from a community. Violent acts and survival at all costs are not in line with the good of everyone, and that is also why people possessed by Wendigo were seen as harmful to nature.
A fan of monsters, huh?
Head to my collection of the coolest monsters featured in movies in the 2010s.