I’ve only heard of director Lucky McKee’s “The Woman” through word of mouth and what my friends in this site had to say about this horror movie based on a story written by Jack Ketchum. Upon researching some background on it, it seems like the film had caused quite a stir in Sundance and even the marketing folks and different reactions have called it a horror film of despicably hateful misogynistic nature, that some have even called it a piece of ’trash cinema’. Not really sure how I feel about those statements, but “The Woman” for me was meant to entertain, ok, maybe not for those folks who believe that horror does not have to be brutally violent and graphic in nature, but rather to entertain those horror fans who are always looking for something different.
It would be easy to misread the intentions behind this movie. It may even be easy to dismiss it as some kind of misogynistic display of violence, because it is blunt, straight-forward that may fit into the books of grind house and exploitation cinema. The film is about an unnamed woman (Pollyanna McIntosh), raised by wolves and is living in the woods, have managed to put together something that resembles clothes fashioned from animal hide. You can just tell that the film is not to be taken seriously since several things would give the viewer the impression that it is far-fetched. One day, a freaky father, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) spots this woman bathing near a creek. He becomes obsessed with her and he captures her the very next day. Cleek then takes her to a shed near his house and convinces his family, made up of Mrs. Cleek (Angela Bettis) and their three children (Lauren Ashley Carter included). The family never does warm up to the idea of torture-taming and sexual torture save for the freako son (Zach Rand), but they follow orders.
The story is pretty simple but it does have some dimensions to it. The characters can be interesting and I liked the way the script had added some complications to the everyday lives of this family. I mean, they have some inner secrets that can give the viewer a feeling of unease. Be that as it may, the film had some commentary as to how women should not take any shit from any man, and that women should learn to stand up when they are being abused. I know, the script and the direction made it hard for me to take such things seriously, (I mean when Cleek watches the woman half-naked and bathing, the soundtrack is all about a ‘bump and grind’ rock song) and at the most, I saw “The Woman” as a bad ass grind house movie whose driving force would have to be some shock value.
The acting is a little uneven. There were times that I thought the cast was reading from ‘dummy cards’ but the lead actress manages to pull off quite a convincing savage performance despite her limitations in speech. McIntosh was effective in her portrayal, she had that screen presence that truly grabbed your attention. I liked the way she had that cannibalistic persona mixed in with her feminine wiles. Sean Bridgers and Zach Rand made every effort to become the object of hate in this film. It was almost as if the direction was showing off that civilized may be more savage than savages being savage themselves. I was really rooting for them to get their due. I did feel that the characters of Peggy and Mrs. Cleek to be the weak and confused kind, and while they had my sympathy, I was also pissed that they could allow such abuse in their family.
The script also had a lot of rough spots and some sequences required a suspension of disbelief. Some areas of the script omitted development, as it wanted to exude a feeling of mystery. As I’ve said this is not a movie to be taken seriously, and so even when the sexual torture scenes and violence were in play and they felt real, you could tell that they weren’t real since the reactions were a little exaggerated to really capture genuine emotions. The final act is definitely visceral and a little over-the-top as was intended. This is a horror movie after all, and one directed by McKee and co-written by Ketchum, you should know what to expect. It was hideously grisly and graphic and it is what makes the movie fun to watch. The film feels like an “Ichi the Killer” romp that collides with “Machete”.
Yeah, “The Woman” is a shocking horror movie meant to repulse ‘decent folks’, but no one had ever accused me of being too decent when it comes to my horror movies. It is not the misogynistic, hateful film that many had said, but rather it is an extreme horror excess that the effective portrayal of Pollyanna McIntosh made it good. I mean, it seems to say that there are abusive stupid husbands and boyfriends out there, and women should not take their shit. It feels more like a piece of 70’s grind house horror, kind of clever, violent and bombastic and yet has that sassiness around its lovely scene of disemboweling. Highly recommended to extreme horror fans , but those who only “think” that they are horror fans had better stay away. Remember, I have a twisted sense of humor and an odd taste in horror movies. My friends had said so.
***1/2 out of **** It's baffling to me that this film is being marketed as a straight-up horror film; because after watching it, I can say with much confidence that it's anything but. "The Woman" is more like a provocative and deeply perturbing drama with a blood-soaked finale; in which explosions of brutal violence come from all directions, lending it the label of a horror-show. Still, if you're observant of time; you'll notice that the nastiness only really starts in the … more