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With: Bel Powley, Liv Tyler, Brad Dourif, Collin Kelly-Sordelet, James Le Gros
Written by: Fritz Böhm, Florian Eder
Directed by: Fritz Böhm
MPAA Rating: R for violence including bloody images, language, some sexual content and teen drinking
Running Time: 92
Date: 04/13/2018

Wildling (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Girl Shock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on the primal, male-held view of changes in a woman's body being monstrous, this clever, sympathetic horror-drama — like Ginger Snaps before it — provides a fresh, bracing twist on that myth.

In Wildling, a man known as Daddy (Brad Dourif) cares for a young girl called Anna, although she appears to be a prisoner in a locked room. She is told that it's to protect her from the "Wildling." As Anna grows into a young woman (Bel Powley), Daddy finds it more difficult to keep secrets from her, and attempts to commit suicide.

The gunshot brings Sheriff Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler), who decides to bring Anna to her home, rather than allow her to be locked up in a facility. Anna begins acting strangely, not understanding much about the outside world, and devouring mostly meat at mealtime. She befriends Ellen's younger brother, Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) and they go to a party together. When bullies pick on Ray, however, something awakens in Anna, and the secret of her existence comes to the fore.

As Anna experiences her first menstrual cycle, "Daddy" tells her she's "sick," and from there, Wildling follows her as she deals with her feelings and impulses; perhaps they're evil, but they feel good. It helps that actress Powley is in the role. With her wide, expressive eyes, she went through similar changes and impulses (but in a less supernatural setting) in The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Wilding is the feature directing debut of German-born Fritz Bohm, and it's a good one, finding a smart balance of sympathetic characters willing to understand Anna and ugly ones who are quick to judge her. It's also notable that the good characters are brother and sister, with no parents in sight; it's an interesting dynamic.

Wildling is a movie whose meanings can be pleasurably picked apart, although it succeeds more fully as a thoughtful movie than as a scary one. (Dourif — known for his work as "Chucky" — has doubtless been cast for his horror movie clout, but Bohm doesn't seem interested in superficial scares.) And, of course, the movie's theme is not exactly original (see Carrie, Teeth, It Follows, Raw, etc.), but at least Bohm tackles it with renewed energy.

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