Wildling finds a little girl named Anna (Aviva Winick) being held in a single room by a man she knows only as “Daddy” (Brad Dourif). He cares for her and tells her tales of a creature called a “Wildling” that will come for here if she steps outside. When Anna grows into a young woman (Bel Powley from Diary of a Teenage Girl) the man becomes fearful and his suicide attempt brings the police. Rescued, Anna is put in the custody of Sheriff Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler) till they can find her real parents. The longer she stays with Ellen and her brother Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet), though, the more Anna starts to change. When a young boy’s body is found mutilated in the woods, it starts to appear that Anna is something far more than simply a victim of imprisonment…and there may be far more truth to the fables of The Wildling.
This is certainly not the first time that lycanthropy has been used as a euphemism for a young woman coming of age. It is, however, a far different film than the cult classic Ginger Snaps, as directed by Fritz Böhm from his script with Florian Eder. While Ginger Snaps was more about budding sexuality, here there is a large focus on the fear in men of a woman’s empowerment, as the last act centers on a group of hunters trying to track Anna down and destroy her. We also get some disrespect from some of these men towards Tyler’s female sheriff, as she tries to find Anna and figure things out. Unfortunately, it is also in the last third where the film loses a bit of it’s grip, as Anna becomes more beast-like and it turns into torch light villagers hunting the monster, when the first two thirds were about a girl trying to find her place in the world, while dealing with some kind of metaphorical transformation. That was more emotionally interesting, as we like Anna and sympathize with her trying to fit in after years in a cell. Still Böhm tells his tale in his own style and he accomplishes some atmosphere and does make some really good use of the New York State locations, including some in downtown Piermont, NY, which I personally have frequented often. The film is visually satisfying and there are some gruesome sequences to remind you there is a horror flick under all the thinly veiled metaphors.
The small cast is very good, especially Powley as Anna. She creates a young woman both frightened and fascinated by the new world she is thrust into and then having to deal with a terrifying transformation into something she was taught is very dangerous. Her petite stature and youthful features allow her to successfully portray a woman ten years younger, as she did in the sexually themed Diary of a Teenage Girl. Liv Tyler is solid as the caring Sheriff. She becomes attached to Anna and it becomes hard for her when she starts to believe the girl might be dangerous. Dourif is good, as always, as “Daddy” a man who may have actually been locking the little girl up for her own good. Rounding out is a good performance by Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Ellen’s brother Ray, who also cares for Anna and James LeGros as a hermit who lives in the woods and may know more about Anna than she does herself.
In conclusion this is not an original idea, it could be oversimplified into Room meets Ginger Snaps, but is well done enough to walk to the beat of it’s own drum. Director/co-writer Fritz Böhm creates an atmospheric allegory of a young woman coming of age and thus becoming dangerous to those who fear her empowerment. The first two-thirds are involving and it’s only in the last act, when it becomes more of a monster hunt that it loses it’s grip somewhat, thought it’s point is still made. A good cast, especially our lead, also helps tell the story well. Worth watching, though one might end up wanting to like it a bit more than one actually does. Not bad for a first full length film, Böhm could be someone to keep an eye on.
Rated 2 and 1/2 full moons.