One could call this a coming of age film and in a sense it is, but it is far more than that and by blending horror, the supernatural and a little teenage angst, Wildling turns into something just a little different.
The movie begins with a young girl played by Bel Powley, locked in a room she cannot escape from and tended to by an older man, something that has been seen a few times before and it is never an auspicious start for the captive because captive she is. Suffice it to say, Fritz Böhm’s picture takes a bit of a swerve as the girl eventually gets out, her captor whom she calls ‘Daddy’ still alive after a fashion and she is soon taken in by the local sheriff played by Liv Tyler. A bond forms between the once-broken sheriff and the naive young woman and things seem to be going okay until the latter starts to come into her own, nature taking its course despite the earlier best efforts of Brad Dourif’s Daddy. Now that she is maturing, her body is changing in more ways than one and that leads to where the audience knew it would go, the plot not being all that surprising in its unfolding, but done well enough as to make up for it.
While much in this film seems familiar, whether it is the character of Ray played by Collin Kelly-Sordelet whom the audience can tell is going to fall in love with the naive Anna, Mike Faist’s bully Lawrence who looks upon Anna as a conquest and whom the viewer knows is going to try something with her later on, Böhm’s careful pacing and superb storytelling makes it all seem new. Those watching know where it is all heading, the film being easily predictable, but it matters little as the talent involved sells it enough that one cannot help but be immersed in the story being told. As it is, the picture ends up becoming a little suspenseful towards the end as Anna starts to become what most would have guessed near the beginning of the film and it hearkens back to those Universal monster movies of old where the audience would rather cheer for the creature rather than anyone else. It is an amalgamation of classic horror sensibilities with the new, a romanticizing of the monster combined with the actions of modern man and the visceral. If there is a little that seems commonplace in the film, and there is, it is offset by everything that the cast and crew and especially Powley, put into it.
Wildling is far from a revolutionary film, especially when it comes to the horror genre, yet it provides those that watch it an escape into the life of another, a hard life perhaps, but one that will absorb its audience into the movie and provide solid entertainment from start to finish.
3.5 out of 5