The Daily Stream: Tilbury Is The Oddest TV Movie You'll Ever See

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Tilbury"

Where You Can Stream It: Shudder

The Pitch: The question that will keep coming up over the 57-minute runtime of "Tilbury" is, "This was made for TV?!" Viðar Víkingsson's bizarre 1987 folk horror (based on a short story by Thorarinn Eldjarn) conjures an Icelandic legend for the small screen, complete with all of the milky fluids you can handle. The title refers to a beast who, like Rumplestiltskin of the Grimm fairy tale, can be summoned in desperate times by women in despair. 

By wrapping a human rib bone in wool, placing it betwixt her breasts, and adding a bit of sacramental wine, the woman could muster an impish Tilbury who would suckle the milk from other farmers' cows and return to her with the payload, which he would deliver by saying, "Here's a bellyful, Mummy." The woman would reply, "Let it out, son," and the imp would vomit out distinctly green butter (known as Tilbury butter), which the woman could survive on. But that's not all! The Tilbury doesn't only disgorge himself on cow's milk; he feeds from his mistress, via a nipple on her inner thigh. If the imp were found out by anyone else, he would immediately kill the mistress who summoned him. 

This is the foundation of the movie and, impressively, Víkingsson delivers on all of these elements in less than an hour. The result is exactly as strange as you'd expect. "Tilbury" may not scare you, but you won't forget it anytime soon.

Why it's essential viewing

Playing fast and loose with the term "essential viewing" here, but "Tilbury" is covered in Kier-La Janisse's comprehensive 2021 documentary "Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror" as one of the rare Icelandic entries in the genre. The full feature (restored from the original 16mm negative) is now available physically as part of the "Woodlands Dark" compendium DVD release, "All the Haunts Be Ours," which also includes gems like the 1967 Soviet Union witch horror "Viy" and Ben Wheatley's 2012 shroom-trip period horror "A Field in England." Horror-centric streaming service Shudder has many of these underseen folk horror movies available to stream right now, and this is one of the shortest features to add to your watchlist.

"Tilbury" is a period horror set in British-occupied Iceland in 1940, when there's a war on and resources are scarce. A country boy named Audun (Kristján Franklin Magnúss) relocates to Reykjavik and checks up on his childhood crush, only to learn that she is carrying on with a foul British officer with a prominent (not just physically, but the prosthetics are clearly a different shade than the rest of the actor's face) nose and chin. Over time, Audun begins to suspect that the soldier is actually a Tilbury. 

All of the boxes are ticked regarding the legend itself: the green butter spew, the thigh nipple, the boobie-based sacrilege, and the kinky call-and-response. But Víkingsson layers in opaque dread through Audun's apprehensions — from the British occupation of Iceland (the Brits invaded for fear that the then-neutral country would fall to the Axis powers) to the corruption of his sweetheart (leading to a surreal nightmare dance sequence) — leavening a goofy, grim fairy tale with imagery and tone that lingers. Not much more can be said of the film without overexplaining, so make yourself some bread and butter, and throw on "Tilbury."