CONTENT WARNING: THE PREMISE IS BUILT UPON CHILD ABUSE AND THERE’S A SEXUAL ASSAULT LATER THAT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR ME TO MENTION
Sometimes you watch a movie because an actor you like is in it. I don’t remember Hellraiser: Hellworld for it’s groundbreaking script, but because the prolific Mr. Lance Henriksen was in the Hellraiser sequel that took place in an video game. And… Henry Cavill was in it? I’ll file that away for later, but the point still stands. So while looking for my next movie to review I saw the trailer for Wildling, recognized an actor in this, and instantly knew I had to watch it. And as a bonus, Brad Dourif–Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Chucky in Child’s Play, and a dozen more recognizable roles–is also in this!
Wildling is a grim story about Anna and her Daddy (Brad Dourif), the only people left in the world. Everyone else was been killed and eaten by Wildlings. Except that’s all a lie–Anna has been locked in the attic by her father for as long as she can remember, pumped with hormone blockers since her first–and only–period, and she finds herself out in the real world only after she grows very sick and her Daddy attempts suicide in front of her. She’s found by officer Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler), whose subdued acting usually reminds me of someone talking to a frightened animal, so it actually works here. She goes to live with Ellen and her younger brother, Ray, but no one seems to realize that she has never been outside of her attic before.
Anna’s not like most girls. She can run incredibly fast, has super hearing, develops an addiction to meat after a life of being fed only vegetables, and tears out the throat of a guy who tries to rape her. With her teeth (you go, girl). I think we all know where this is going, yeah? These kinds of stories typically focus on young girls, in part because their first period is a cultural signifier that they have transitioned from “girl” to “woman.” The reality is obviously more complicated, but men don’t really have a moment like that. I’d give a personal example about how puberty for me was a gradual process, but no one wants to hear about that. So yeah, this film falls into the “female puberty transforms her into a monster” genre of films along with Ginger Snaps and (arguably) Carrie.
But this movie has a twist: Anna transforms earlier than you would anticipate, and the film keeps going. Typically in these kinds of movies, the girl doesn’t really get a chance to spread her wings–sometimes literally–before she’s either killed by fearful townsfolk or is consumed by her own powers. But Anna escapes from the people hunting her and… she doesn’t quite “thrive,” but she doesn’t suffer as much as a watcher might anticipate. Not fully a subversion, but enough of a chance in the formula that I appreciated it.
So if I didn’t watch this for noteworthy actor Brad Dourif, who did I watch this for? Why, James LeGros, of course! James Le–no? Name doesn’t ring any bells? That’s fair. He’s someone who came across my radar through Movie Night. He was in Solarbabies, the post-apocalyptic roller skate movie; Phantasm II where he was a replacement actor for the main character; Scotland, PA where he was more or less MacBeth (because that’s the play MacBeth but set in a fast food restaurant); and The Last Winter, one of the many movies he’s made with human forehead Larry Fessenden. He’s a solid C-list actor, but I adore him, so when I saw he played a partially blind mountain man known as “the Wolf Man,” I had to watch this. His role is pretty much inconsequential, but the rest of the movie was not bad!
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