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The Woman

The Woman

By Jamie Suckley • October 14th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Revolver Entertainment

Release date: October 17th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 101 minutes

Director: Lucky McKee
Writers: Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum
Producers: Robert Tonino and Andrew Van Den Houten
Composer: Sean Spillane

Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, Zach Rand, Lauren Ashley Carter, Shyla Molhusen

Official Movie Site

Every year a film comes along which causes a commotion. Antichrist (2009), The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009) and A Serbian Film (2010) have all created controversial uproars. I must admit that I like to watch the films, not because I’m deranged, but to see if they really are as shocking as portrayed. Normally I am left disappointed.

Lucky McKee’s latest film, The Woman, the follow-on to Offspring (2009) has also been causing quite a stir – but is it really all it’s made out to be or is it a clever marketing campaign?

During its showing at the Sundance film festival, one man was so outraged by the film that he started shouting and had to be escorted from the cinema. His outburst was captured and posted on YouTube, claiming the film shouldn’t have been screened and calling for it to be confiscated and burned. “You don’t know how upsetting this film is!” he cries out.

The Woman

The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is the last surviving member of a violent clan that roamed the Northeast Coast of America for decades. Following a battle to the death with police, she finds herself alone, wounded and vulnerable in the woods.

In suburbia, the Cleek family seem to be the normal all-American family, living the American dream. Father Chris (Sean Bridgers), a lawyer and supposedly normal ‘family man’, captures the feral woman whilst out hunting, imprisoning her in his fruit cellar. He explains to the family that he intends to train and ‘civilise’ her and ‘free her from her baser instincts’. His twisted and inhumane project includes the participation of the whole family. His son, Brian (Zach Rand), takes to the task with sadistic pleasure taking his minor frustrations out on the captive woman.

Belle (Angela Bettis), the mother is questioning but complies with her husband’s orders, while eldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) disagrees and seems to be the only one discouraged from participating in the project. The youngest daughter Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) doesn’t fully understand the seriousness of the situation and naively believes her father is doing a good deed.

The Woman

Chris didn’t realise his decision to capture the woman would threaten the lives of his family…. but he’s going to find out soon enough.

With a script written by McKee, who directed the brilliant film May (2002), and acclaimed horror author Jack Ketchum (who both co-wrote the book of the same name), The Woman revisits themes and locations from Ketchum’s Dead River series which includes the 1980 novel Off Season and its 1991 sequel Offspring (which was adapted into a film also staring McIntosh).

The Woman holds no barriers in exploring the horrors surrounding suburbia and in society whilst including frequent darkly hilarious moments. When I watch a Jack Ketchum film adaptation, I have two thoughts already in my head: it’s going to be unsettling and it’s not going to have a happy finale. With his earlier film, The Girl Next Door (2007), he explored the abuse and torture of a young teenage girl led by her evil auntie. It was and still is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.

The Woman

On similar grounds, The Woman has a strong theme of domestic violence. Chris has a negative influence on his family, slapping his wife when she questions him and such actions haven’t gone unnoticed by his son Brian, who is an evil and twisted child. There’s a scene where he tortures the woman whilst pleasuring himself, after seeing his father raping her. It was a case of like father like son for me and that’s what made the film so unsettling.

There’s also a strong theme of feminist liberation, and you never feel sympathy for the male perpetrators. They are portrayed as the evil villains as they objectify women and try to overpower them and I actually wanted to see them get their comeuppance. It’s the female characters that I sympathised with, in particular the woman, who is almost mute and is full of hate and repressed rage due to the awful situations she has been exposed to including rape and torture. Towards the end of the film you are expecting a bloody revenge fuelled retribution and that’s exactly what you get. Following the likes of the original and remakes of I Spit on Your Grave (1978 and 2010) and The Last House of the Left (1972 and 2009) it has a rather unique take on the revenge format.

The film is a slow burner for the majority, but upon build up to the climax you begin to feel the pressure of what’s about to happen. From literally a few drops of blood, a full-scale blood bath develops. It was one of the most bizarre, jaw dropping sequences I have seen in ages. I actually laughed in shock at the carnage.

The Woman

The Woman is a disturbing horror film, which focuses on the themes of domestic violence and has a strong (and needed) positive dose of feminist liberation. It brings intelligence to a genre, which has been bogged down by pointless unintelligent remakes and sequels.

In answer to my earlier question, The Woman isn’t the most controversial film I’ve seen this year. Although the themes are unpleasant and stay with you after the film has finished, I don’t understand the emotional outbreaks during the screening at Sundance, which gives me the feeling it was all a clever publicity stunt.

Overall I’d recommend it, but don’t blame me if you don’t like what you see.

Anyway, best go. I’ve got to feed the wild woman I caught wondering round the Peak District at the weekend. Hope she likes crackers!

Youtube video: Lucky McKee’s new Movie The woman (guy gets upset at premiere). [Accessed 3rd October 2011]

Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.

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