A little girl lies in bed, wide blue eyes filled with fear as a man sits up beside her. Leaning in, hands pressed against the bed at her sides, he asks, “Do you want me to tell you about the wildling?”
A barren concrete room flooded in darkness, the space is devoid of any sign of a normal life. Metal bars that guard the single window and a secured door prevent the little girl, Anna, from ever leaving. The man, known as Daddy, assures her it’s for her own protection from the wildling, claiming “Anna is too small. Anna must stay inside.” This is the opening scene of Fritz Böhm’s debut feature, Wildling, which he also co-wrote alongside Florian Eder.
On the surface, Wildling is a monster movie that unravels not only Anna’s turbulent past, but it also reveals the core of her identity through her blossoming into womanhood; which coincides with her maturity and transformation into the monster. A prisoner from the outside world, Anna is a small child under the care of the mysterious ‘daddy’, actor Brad Dourif, who claims she is the sole survivor of an onslaught by the wilding. Her imprisonment is a means of protection from the beast, according to Daddy. As Anna reaches the age of adolescence, played by actress Bel Powley, the first sign of menstruation puts Anna under a regimen of Supprelin; a hormone suppressing drug in the form of abdominal injections. Tragic circumstances free Anna from imprisonment when she is found by Sheriff Ellen Cooper, played by Liv Tyler.
In the similar vein as films like Carrie (1976), Wildling is a coming-of-age feature about sexual maturity and transformation. It’s a film that treads along the dramas of physical development and the horrors those changes can manifest. Interestingly enough, both films address menstrual periods as grotesque; in Wildling, Daddy tells Anna she is sick and needs medicine. Böhm’s approach in delivering an original story, although utilizing rehashed elements usually found in coming-of-age films, yields a unique perspective, which provides a breath of fresh air into the horror genre. Anna is not only adjusting to the changes within herself, but the environment of the outside world she experiences for the first time allow her to embrace her development even more. Actress Bel Powley delivers a performance worth noting as excellent. Even her physical features, big expressive blue eyes and appearing age appropriate for the role, give her character a convincing appeal of innocence yet slowly revealing the monster that lies beneath. Is it malicious? That’ll be for the viewer to decide.
Liv Tyler’s character, Sheriff Ellen Cooper, adds an affectionate quality to the film’s tone. I was curious how Liv Tyler would perform as the town sheriff, but as the story unravels, it becomes clear Tyler’s role actually compliments not only the film’s dark tone and suppressive themes, but the affection and understanding she provides adds a warm spirit to the film against the darkness that unravels. Her character eventually proves she’s a force to be reckoned with.
The special effects are also worth noting as impressive. I especially enjoyed the design of the creature. Perhaps it does not follow the traditional look and mythology of the werewolf, but I appreciate the original perspective and it’s admirable delivery. The cinematic tone of Wildling is dark, employing dark blues, forest green and cyber yellow; utilizing opposing colors to set the mood for conflict and/or drawing attention to significant items (an example is Anna’s yellow dress against the darkness of the forest).
Wildling offers an excellent, visually appealing, film that embraces the horrors of its monster. Although the film may lack the overly gratuitous blood and gore of previous creature features, director Fritz Böhm effectively utilizes its carnage to support the plot while applying its focus more on character development. There are obvious hints of social undertones relating to a more feminist perspective. One could interpret Anna’s manifestations as a metaphor for womanhood against the suppressive forces that threaten it. Granted, whether you watch Wildling for the horror thrill and unsettling storyline, or simply to appreciate its cinematic demonstration of feminist social commentary, the film delivers and it’s definitely one to admire. Powley’s ability to portray an inquisitive young woman with such innocence, in contrast to the terrifying creature that is slowly emerging within her is nothing short of striking.
Wildling, a thrilling and satisfying horror film. It’s a story of coming-of-age that sustains an emotional baggage of love, self-discovery, and heartbreak. I very much enjoyed this film and it’s definitely one I wouldn’t pass up. You can find it on its current theatrical run or own/rent it in Video-On-Demand (VOD) through most online retailers such as iTunes, Amazon and Vudu. When the credits roll, ask yourself who you found the antagonist to be. Enjoy the trailer below from the IFC Midnight official YouTube channel. Cheers.
Directed by: Fritz Böhm
Written by: Fritz Böhm and Florian Eder
Starring: Bel Powley, Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif
Distributed by: IFC Midnight