Wildling (R)

Horror 92 min. April 13, 2018
By April Wolfe
Fritz Böhm’s directorial debut seeks entry into the canon of films about girls awakening to their own devastating powers upon their first menstruation cycle. Wildling, which follows a girl who’s held captive in a basement until she’s a teenager, stuns with occasional breathtaking imagery, sometimes experimenting with what looks to be hand-drawn storybook illustrations digitally animated. But the attention paid to images does not translate to character development, story or dialogue, leaving little emotional resonance, while making me seriously wonder if the men telling these stories understand much at all about female sexuality.

With little in the way of story, Bel Powley’s expressive blue eyes are expected to do a lot of heavy lifting. She plays Anna, the captive girl, whom we meet as a very small child, played first by Arlo Mertz and then Aviva Winick as she ages, until Powley takes over. Every night, “Daddy” (Brad Dourif) tucks in Anna, and every morning, he bathes and feeds her, all the while telling her scary stories of the wildling, a creature with sharp, black nails and long, cutting teeth that has eaten all the people — except Anna and Daddy. All’s well and fine until Daddy finds blood in Anna’s sheets, and then he restrains her and injects her with something to stop her periods.

Eventually, Anna’s discovered and sent to live with policewoman Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler) and her teenage brother Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet), which brings this fairy tale into the reality of a small, wooded town, with high school crushes and house parties. Or at least teen-movie reality. There is no interiority to these characters; there is no reason to tell this story.
Fritz Böhm Liv Tyler, Brad Dourif, Bel Powley, James Le Gros, Mike Faist Fritz Böhm, Florian Eder IFC Films

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