Tilbury (1987) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Tilbury (1987) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on April 18th, 2022 | Movie Review | Possession, Supernatural, Thriller, War

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It's about a love triangle featuring a cadet, an officer, and a girl with a nipple on her leg.

Tilbury was directed by Viðar Víkingsson (Draigasaga and Guðmundur Kamban) and stars Róbert Arnfinnsson (The Girl Gogo), Helga BernhardKristján Franklin Magnús (The Deep), and Karl Ágúst Úlfsson (Spaugstofan).

Is a smitten soldier’s rival an officer who outranks him – or a goblin with an agenda?

Tillbury (1987)

Tilbury introduces its folk-myth parameters via a detailed voiceover as the film begins:

“Icelandic folktales tell of a magic practice that women sometimes resorted to long ago in times of hunger and hardship. In order to come by more butter than their own farms could produce, they would bring to life a tame imp, called in Icelandic, a ‘tilberi.’

“They made the tilberi from a human rib, wrapped it in wool, and kept it between their breasts. They could send the tilberi out to suck milk from other people’s cows and sheep. When the tilberi came back to its mistress, it would say, ‘Here’s a belly-full, Mommy’ to which she would reply, ‘Let it out, son.’

“Then it would disgorge butter of an unusual consistency, and butter that looked like this was called ‘tilberi butter.’ If the sign of the cross was made over the butter, it revealed its evil origin. The woman could live on this butter while the tilberi itself fed from a nipple inside the thigh of its mother or mistress. If the tilberi was discovered by anyone else, it attacked the woman and sucked so violently as to kill her.

“Communion wine was necessary to bring the tilberi to life between the woman’s breasts.”  

This is a weird, 56-minute, Icelandic made-for-television movie. It has recently enjoyed a mild spasm of re-attention from its inclusion on the multi-DVD box set, All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror.

In 1940, Iceland (which remained its neutrality throughout WWII) is invaded by British forces. Audun obsesses over Gudrún, a beautiful girl he has known since their rural childhood together.  When Private Audun is stationed in Reykjavik, he encounters her again, but she is dancing with a gnome-like British general named Tilbury.

General Tilbury is a multi-faceted colonialist with a penchant for vomiting dairy products. Yogurt, mostly. The next year, equally boorish American forces replace the Brits. It’s quite clear that Tilbury is a tilberi, but the more interesting query is what, exactly, is the protagonist, Audun? That’s the real puzzle.

Worth Watching?

It’s a beguiling, charming bit of Icelandic folk horror blended with political commentary. It’s well-worth a watch. 

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