SXSW 18: Fritz Böhm’s ‘Wildling’ is More Than Just a Haunting Bedtime Story

The Wilding
Credit: Maven Pictures

Anna (BEL POWLEY)spends her entire childhood under the care of a mysterious man she only knows as Daddy (BRAD DOURIF). He keeps her locked in an attic making her fear the Wildling, a child-eating monster that roams the outside. At age 16, Anna is freed by small-town sheriff Ellen Cooper (LIV TYLER)who helps her start a new life as a normal teenager. But as Anna’s body begins to blossom, her childhood nightmares return with a vengeance, leading to the conclusion of a dark secret…

First and foremost, Wildlingoffers some truly beautiful forest landscapes and cinematography, making it almost impossible to believe that the majority of this film was shot in locations like Manhattan and the Bronx Zoo.  The performances of both veteran and fresher faces alike keep the audience emotionally invested in this bedtime story-turned-nightmare that slowly unfolds on screen.  Bel Powley delivers a harrowing portrayal of a young women coming to terms with both the truth of the actual world around her, and the truth of  her own identity.  Liv Tyler delivers a warmth and generosity the young girl has never before encountered, and does so with fantastic resolve and dominance when faced with any sort of obstacle between her and what’s right, person or otherwise.  Brad Dourif once more chills us like only Brad Dourif can.

Right as all seems well, with Anna far away from Daddy and slowly coming to terms with her new life in the real world, that’s when Böhm steals away any notion of a preconceived traditional “happy ending”.  The quiet little town has it’s own secrets that can no longer remain hidden.  Just when you think that Anna has escaped the real monster, a completely new one begins to take form.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an entire town with something to hide (The Reapingcomes immediately to mind).  In a way that seems quite intentional, Wildlingoffers only the slightest glimpse into what took place all those years ago that lead to the circumstances of the present.  Questions are answered at something of a surface level,  leaving the audience wanting to know so much more.  During the Q&A, Böhm was asked about a sequel taking place within this universe.  Personally, I love the idea of a prequel so much more.

Wildling’s blend of haunting bedtime story/coming of age tale/nod to the silver screen monsters of yesteryear blends quite well in the time allotted.  Some questionable dialogue and reaction choices arise here and there, but nothing that would detract from or otherwise derail the film from its well-blended storyline.  You can look for Wildling this April on IFC Midnight.

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The Wilding