Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Woman (2011)

Hear Me Roar

Some people can't take a joke. Others just can't handle a horror film. By now, most of you have probably seen the infamous footage of a guy freaking out at Sundance after the showing of Lucky McKee's latest film, The Woman. This man caused a stir during the Q&A when he started shouting his lack of appreciation for a film that shows rape and violence toward women. This guy probably could sit through The Piano, for instance, and shed a tear. Add in elements of horror and suddenly the movie is a piece of shit. One, it was an Official Selection of Sundance which says a lot for the integrity of the film, and secondly, people need to stop shitting on horror movies because they can't grasp social commentary in films that go beyond what The Academy Awards tells them to appreciate. This movie isn't Black Swan, people, and thank God for that, because Black Swan fucking blew.

The Woman (based off of Jack Ketchum's follow-up novel to Offspring) centers on a family living in the New England countryside who seem to be your average household. Chris (Sean Bridgers, True Blood) is a successful lawyer and seemingly happy-go-lucky guy who along with his wife, Belle (Angela Bettis, May), have three children: an young and impressionable little girl, a teenage boy with behavioral problems, and a daughter in high school who is pregnant, though her family doesn't know. While hunting in the forest, Chris spots a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh, playing the same role she did in Offspring) nude and hunting for food. Using a net, he captures and brings her home, chaining her up in a cellar in the backyard. Chris casually informs his family of the situation insists that they are going to reform her into a civilized person, which they somewhat awkwardly agree to. But with the arrival of the woman, personal problems start to surface from each member of the family, and when things turn violent, it becomes difficult to tell who's the real animal.

After working on bigger films like The Woods, and Red, Lucky McKee returns to his indie roots with The Woman, almost to a disappointing degree. The film itself is quite good, but lingering camera angles and awkward fadeouts consistently plague the production values as well as some awkward sound mixing (though this may be fixed by the film's DVD release). Another strange aspect of the film is how the family treats the situation of the father bringing home the woman. They're almost cool about it and express little worry, while he has no qualms whatsoever, even after having half of his finger bitten off. This is all more or less explained in the end, but Bridger's stiff/upbeat acting comes off a little too much at times and you never fully understand exactly why his family lets him get away with what he does.

The Woman is unrelenting, however, in its portrayal of a broken family fathered by a misogynistic alpha male whose only concern is power, be it sexual, physical, or emotional. Chris is a real piece of shit and you soon start to see how his thought process works, showing absolutely zero respect for anyone but his son, who is already heading down the same inhumane path as his father.

Though she has very few lines, McIntosh's performance is stellar, as everything you need to know is displayed by her powerful gaze, and when she lunges from her shackles or screeches when she's confronted or bathed, you truly feel that this is a dangerous woman you need to stay away from. It also doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous and has a killer body. Though it's great to see Bettis and McKee working together again, there isn't much of a role for Bettis to craft as she mostly plays a subservient wife, although she does shine in one explosive verbal confrontation with Chris.

The film's real high point is an uncomfortably tense and violent third act that I won't spoil, but it doesn't pull any punches and will satisfy those who were growing tired of seeing "the woman" beaten and raped for days, while people sat by and did nothing. This is when the film truly feels like the work of Ketchum (who penned the novel and screenplay alongside McKee) as his visceral flair reaches its boiling point.

While this isn't my favorite film by McKee, it's definitely one of my favorite Ketchum adaptations so far. Combining The Girl Next Door's use of torture and abuse with the ferocity and feral nature of Offspring, The Woman is sure to be a crowd favorite among fans of both McKee and Ketchum. Just remember to try to keep an open mind when watching. You don't want to end up on YouTube because you couldn't handle your shit in a theater full of horror fans.

3/5 Stars

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