Something you all know about me is that I call myself “The Wolfman,” which would make you think I have an affinity for werewolf movies. Interestingly, I give zero craps about the horror subgenre, making me appear as a poser! However, I’m always excited to see new interpretations of the werewolf concept, as my biggest complaint is how few stories make good use of the mythology. Fans of werewolf movies will surely appreciate the reinvented mythology presented by Wildling, and, while I wasn’t sold on the product as a whole, I appreciated the ambitious directions the film explored in this quasi-lycanthropic coming of age tale.
Anna (Bel Powley) is different from other girls, mainly because she’s kept locked in a room by the creepy figure she calls “Daddy” (Brad Dourif). When the young girl has her first period, Daddy begins a series of mysterious injections, which appear to have a serious impact on her health. The young girl manages to leave her prison and enter the real world, which is full of new sights, sounds, and people. Police officer Beth (Liv Tyler) offers to house the girl while authorities figure out how best to help her, only for Anna to undergo bizarre and horrifying changes. The question emerges about who was the bigger threat, Daddy or the abilities that Anna begins to develop?
There’s no denying that Wildling is sure to appeal to horror fans, but what makes the movie so exciting is that it leans more heavily into young adult themes than a straightforward horror film. A majority of the film’s running time focuses far more on the difficulties Anna faces as a young woman attempting to integrate herself into a society she’s unfamiliar with, feeling far more similar to a film like Hanna than a traditional horror film. Powley plays an endearingly oblivious young girl while Tyler conveys the appropriate amount of maternal apprehension, never sacrificing her own wellbeing over helping the young girl. The true standout performer would be Dourif, as his brief appearances throughout the film range from subtle to full-blown maniac, all while painting Daddy as a complex character, making audiences unsure of who to root for.
Another one of the film’s strengths is that, while most horror fans are somewhat aware of werewolf mythology, the film avoids replicating specific elements of the creature to create something that feels familiar, while also being unpredictable. The full moon mythos and silver bullet lore are tossed to the wayside, allowing filmmaker Fritz Böhm to present a new creature that feels both fresh and familiar. Leaning more into the fantasy realm than pure terror, Wildling presents audiences with relatable realities as to avoid needless exposition, yet also throws in plenty of twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes.
While Wildling has many of the necessary components of a classic creature feature, the film’s final act is ultimately a disappointment. Themajority of the film relies on the more human elements of the story, with the ending featuring more action-oriented elements that utilizes some distractingly bad CGI elements. Some of the film’s most thrilling sequences are poorly-lit, disorienting the viewer and making it difficult to grasp the logistics of anything that’s happening, which comes as a frustration to those who enjoyed the horror elements of the film. The relationships between many of the characters feel forced and abrupt, with some of the more developed relationships not feeling fully earned. These arcs leave you feeling both like you want more while also feeling like you were given too much.
Fans of young adult fantasy films are sure to connect with a majority of the film and werewolf connoisseurs will appreciate the new approaches to the well-worn subgenre, though I am ultimately left frustrated with a movie that felt like it had a rushed ending and didn’t know which audiences it was hoping to appeal to.
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