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Wildling (Movie Review)

Wildling (Movie Review)
04.12.2018by: Mike Sprague
5 10

PLOT: A teenage girl’s coming of age comes with a terrifying twist in this spellbinding take on the werewolf legend. Since birth, Anna (Bel Powley) has been raised in isolation by a man she knows only as Daddy (Chucky star Brad Dourif) who has done everything possible to conceal the truth about the girl’s origins from her. But when the teenage Anna is suddenly thrust into the real world under the protection of no-nonsense police officer Ellen (Liv Tyler), it soon becomes clear that the young woman is far from ordinary. Unable to adjust to a normal life, Anna finds herself drawn instead to the wild freedom of the forest while struggling to resist the growing bloodlust that has awakened inside her. This moodily atmospheric thriller combines supernatural scares with a myth-like tale of self-discovery.

REVIEW: Fritz Bohm's WILDLING was a film I was looking forward to checking it out ASAP. Not only was there the solid word-of-mouth surrounding the film after its recent festival run, but once I heard the movie co-starred Liv Tyler (THE STRANGERS) and Brad Dourif (HALLOWEEN II, the voice of Chucky) I was sold. So what did I think of the film after the credits rolled? First off let's talk a bit about the movie's plot which opens with a little girl being held captive in a small room by Mr. Brad Dourif, who's keeping the girl locked away from the world for mysterious reasons that feel all too creepy. This beginning section of the film is great with Dourif telling the small child that outside the room's walls there are "Wildlings", which he tells her are creatures that have eaten all of the other children in the world and only his little girl is has been spared. Creepy as f*ck, right? The film begins like a bedtime story gone horribly wrong and I was all-in.

Eventually, the girl grows into a woman (played by Bel Powley) and through an unfortunate series of events, which are shocking as all hell (and, unfortunately, eventually taken back by the film) the girl is set free from her life-long prison and put into the system. That's when the girl meets the town sheriff played by Liv Tyler, who takes her as her own until the state can figure out what to do with her. It's here that little wildling Anna meets her adoptive brother of sorts (played by Collin Kelly-Sordelet) and from there the film becomes a coming-of-age tale mixed with a werewolf movie. The young girl must now contend with life on the outside, her changing body, and the challenges of high school. Any of this sound familiar yet? If not, don't worry, it will.

I can totally see how this script made its way to the screen as its approach to the werewolf subgenre of horror is fresh and interesting. But that's about where the film stops being fresh and/or interesting. I'm not going to rail on this movie too bad as it is a solid production all around; Fritz Bohm keeps the film moving at a quick pace, cinematographer Toby Oliver does a bang-up job, and the cast is (mostly) top-notch all around. It's just that the movie keeps taking its winning premise and throwing in plot developments that never sat right with this viewer. Like what? Well, the big one is that people survive things they NEVER should and/or could have, but on top of that (and without getting into spoilers) plot conveniences abound, and the whole never felt more than contrived at all turns.Too bad considering the level of talent on display here.

And speaking of the film's level of talent, the cast are all on their A-game, with Bel Powley's titular Wildling turning in a sympathetic performance that anchors the film (somewhat). Powley displays true range here and whether she's ripping out throats or dealing with possible date-rapers at a party, Powley keeps her wildling in a state of child-like wonder and fear that never makes her anything less than a character we want to see succeed - even if that means tearing the flesh from a whole town. But the real aspect that makes the film worth watching is Brad Dourif. Not only does he make for one hell of a creeper, but his motives and backstory are a joy to uncover. Liv Tyler is as solid as always, but I felt she was mostly wasted here. Just my two cents after all.

Another positive aspect the film put forth was that the third act basically becomes a werewolf/Rambo combo. And if that doesn't sound badass to you, then I don't know what I can do for you. The third act was a welcome release from the paint-by-numbers first two acts and injects the movie with just the right amount of action, creature/makeup effects, and action. Let it be known that I don't inherently mind that the first 2/3's of the film was slow character development, I love films that tread on that side of the coin, but when the slow character building acts are just collections of scenes, situations, and dialogue we've seen countless times before, it makes for a fairly boring viewing experience in my eyes. But then comes the third act Rambo-Wolf set-piece and all was (kinda) forgiven. And speaking of the film's rampaging third act, love must be spat towards the film's make-up effects team, Gotham FX which handles not only the film's considerable blood and gore effects with aplomb, but have a tight handle on crafting a new-ish take on the werewolf design that had me nodding my head in agreement. Good stuff. 

In the end, Fritz Bohm's WILDLING is a film with an interesting central premise and storyline that LOOKS great on paper and on the screen. But looks aren't everything as they say, and can be deceiving. Sure the movie is stunning and the production design overall is top-notch, but none of that matters to a guy like me if the story isn't all there. And the sad truth is the nuts and bolts of the film's screenplay are mostly trite and cliche. As much as I wanted to like this movie - after all, it's by no means a BAD motion picture - ultimately, it pulled one too many bullshite moves in my book to give it a solid recommendation.

Basically, it breaks down like this: if you think the world needs yet another "werewolf" movie that's really just a metaphor for puberty and the changes one goes through during their confusing high school years, then, by all means, check out WILDLING. You'll no doubt find it to be a layered film about growing pains and whatnot. Fair enough. But if you've had your share of that storyline, and all of the metaphors, symbolism, and analogies that come along with it, don't bother with Fritz Bohm's WILDING. Just go watch TEEN WOLF and/or GINGER SNAPS again and pretend it's a gritty reboot.

Extra Tidbit: WILDLING hits theaters and VOD via IFC Midnight April 13th.
Source: AITH

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