Werewolf movies were very popular in the late 70s and early 80s: even the 90s, with their sheer amount of unoriginality, ripped off werewolf films multiple times, with usually subpar results. The last examples of this horror subgenre worth mentioning are the British Dog Soldiers (2002) and the Ginger Snaps trilogy.
Until 2018, that is, since Wildling has most of the right ingredients to be a worthy addition within the subgenre.
This is a combination between coming-of-age and lycanthropy, written and directed by German filmmaker Fritz Bohm, that features a solid cast that includes Brad Dourif, Liv Tayler Bel Powley in the main role of Anna.
Anna is a 13/14-year-old girl who’s always been told by her stepfather (Dourif) not to leave the house at any time, especially in the night, sinche the Wildling is out there and could kill her. After her stepdad nearly kills himself, Anna is taken to a hospital by some neighbours and detective Ellen Cooper (Tayler) starts taking care of her, all the while investigating the girl’s shady past and heritage.
The coming-of-age part of Wildling revolves around Anna’s condition: while at Cooper’s house, she has her period for the first time, but hormones don’t only affect her sexual drive, as they are accompanied by physicals changes more extreme than those of your usual teen… Cooper’s brother Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) tries to help her through this tough time.
Wildling is a movie that both presents the viewer with some werewolf movies clichés and works as a character(s) study. We mainly follow four protagonists here: Anna, Ellen, the stepfather and Ellen’s stepson. All of them are multifaceted and compelling, since the movie does a great job at developing their traits throughout. Bel Powley – who proved her acting skills in Diary of a Teenage Girl – steals the show with her dull yet captivating performance, which brings her to a very fulfilling climax. The stepson, played by a quite unknown actor, and Dourif’s character are also rather enthralling. The disappointment, though, lies in Tyler, since her character is very likeable but her acting skills are annoying and wooden as per usual.
Following the director’s roots, Wildling has also a very European vibe, taking its time to make something really happen: surprisingly, this film is very atmospheric and features a serious, almost dramatic tone, which is something we’re not used to in werewolf flicks. Establishing a bleak and sombre atmosphere, helps the movie to work towards its climactic ending, easily my favourite part of the film. In a grand finale that I’m not going to spoil, the viewer’s wait is rewarded by great CG effects, violence and thrilling sequences.
Up until then, Wildling is very much a slow-burner, where the characters and the great camera-work help the viewer to find something to enjoy. Cinematography and locations are also on spot, albeit not outstanding. The soundtrack, however, was a tad disappointing, since it utilises the cliché horror music we’ve heard billion times before in other flicks.
Besides the two small issues I pointed at in the previous paragraphs, my biggest issue with the movie is that, towards the middle, it takes an enormous dive in pace, becoming too slow and uneventful. Yet, the first part – which is indeed quite intriguing – is also filled with tropes such as dream sequences that only infuriated me as a viewer.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, which I’d recommend to fans of unconventional horror filmmaking and lovers of werewolves who are in search of a different take on their beloved subgenre.
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My review is also available on IMDb – Wildling