Anna (Bel Powley) spends her entire childhood under the care of a mysterious man she only knows as Daddy (Brad Dourif). He keeps her locked in an attic, telling her that the Wildling, a child-eating monster that roams the outside and that it’s best that she stays inside. An even she wanted to leave, Daddy has made sure that every exit is blocked by electrifying the door knob to putting bars on the window. The years go by, and Ana’s body starts to change, much to her Daddy’s dismay, and he injects her the stomach to stop her from menstruating. At age 16, Anna is freed by small-town sheriff Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler) who helps her start a new life as a normal teenager. But as Anna’s body begins to blossom, her childhood nightmares return with a vengeance, leading to the conclusion of a terrifying secret, and perhaps Anna is the actual ”Wildling”.
Much of this film’s strengths lay in its original story, co-written by director Fritz Bohm and Florian Eder (who also contributes on visual effects) Wildling is very much like a warped version of a Grimn’s fairytale, the set up is quite interesting and the first fifteen minutes of the film had me hooked. It’s start is very reminiscent to The Room in its early scenes and as the film unfolds, there is elements of Raw as well as Anna begins to ”change” and develops a taste for meat. However I found that the film rushes through these aspects of the story to get to a clunky, predictable conclusion, but I wonder whether this was down to budget constraints?
The film is sold as a horror in its trailer, but despite the establishing of the usual horror archetypes the films becomes a twisted thriller than a horror feature. Some may be disappointed that this isn’t a straight horror film, but I applaud the director and the writers for taking that decision, because many debut filmmakers would have opted to create a creature future that relayed solely on gore, blood and violence, but Bohm is interested in developing his main character. Working with cinematographer Toby Oliver (Get Out), along with Eder’s design team, Bohm excels at staging the film’s more darkly ominous scenes, and the special effects are fairly decent for an independent debut feature.
Bel Powley really shines in this movie. Her acting is superb, and she portrays the character extremely well. Matter of fact she pretty much carries this film by herself. I’ve never seen any other movie she has been in, but after this, I can guarantee she is someone you will want to keep an eye on. Powley manages to successfully project Anna’s inherent distrust of strangers after years of isolation, never entirely warming to Ellen, but responding with hormonal instinct to Ray’s kindness. Her wide darting eyes, and twitching mannerisms really make her seem animatistic. The supporting cast is quite strong. Liv Tyler is slightly under used, but her first scene with Powley is very entertaining, and the interactions with one and another are intriguing to watch. Brad Dourif is truly creepy, and you know from the first second that he appears on-screen that he is not who he claims to be.
Some critics have been quite negative towards this film, and yes it does have its faults, but it is in no means a disaster. Overall, I believe that Wildling is a low-key creature feature with an undertone of menace, skillfully directed by Fritz Bohm in his feature debut. However, at the end of the day it is Bal Powley, who makes Wildling worth watching even when it shouldn’t be. I would recommend you giving this a watch, you might be pleasantly surprised.