Clear, blue skies, a tranquil holiday rental, luscious landscapes soaked in warm sunshine. Not exactly the setting you’d expect for a scary film, but director Jan Verdijk couldn’t care less, as he coaxes his audience into a false sense of serenity, before plunging them into a descent from paradise to hell. Blending the supernatural with an allegory of domestic violence and a side helping of morbid humour, 11-minute horror WILD demands complete sensual and cerebral surrender to its unconventional narrative. In return, it serves up a deliciously bone-chilling atmosphere and a finale that sinks its claws so deep into the skin it’s hard to shake off. You might also think twice next time you want to book a holiday in the middle of nowhere…
Following a young family as they travel to the idyllic Dutch countryside for a quiet weekend away, when they arrive at their picturesque destination it soon becomes apparent that there’s more to this place and its creepy inhabitants than meets the eye. The locals aren’t the only ones acting strangely however, as the dad’s bizarre behaviour works to exacerbate his family’s, and the audience’s, growing sense of unease.
With the help of cinematographer Thijmen Doornik, who transforms the lush setting from bright and open to ominous and claustrophobic, and composer Hans Nieuwenhuijsen, whose classical score keeps you perched on the edge of your seat, Verdijk crafts a surreal narrative that’s very much rooted in reality. Making it far more terrifying than even the scariest monsters that haunt you at night.
“I was trying to put something about this subject on paper and the #MeToo discourse started”
“Reality is crazy. It constantly gets my creative juices flowing” – the director shared with S/W – “For some time I had this idea to make a short film about a man who keeps his surroundings in his grasp by misusing his powerful position in society. In the same period, I was trying to put something about this subject on paper and the #MeToo discourse started. It immediately became clear that this was a turning point. So for me it was impossible not to implement this in the story”.
The narrative will undoubtedly leave a few questions unanswered, but WILD is all about the atmosphere. The film takes you on a trippy ride, forcing you to loosen your grip on reality until you are no longer just observing the unfolding nightmare, but are a part of it. There are traces of dark humour throughout, but these are tense, uncomfortable laughs – the kind that unintentionally burst out at a funeral or when you’re faced with the inexplicable. When I caught myself nervously chuckling at some of the most viciously violent scenes in the film, it really did feel like I was en route to madness.
Verdijk has proven himself to be a master of building a vibe that seeps straight into your veins and once you’ve had a taste of it you’re left ravenous for more. WILD is strange, disturbing and memorable in equal measures which, in my opinion at least, makes it a roaring success.