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With director Lucky McKee’s The Woman bowing in limited theatrical release via Bloody Disgusting Selects on Friday, October 14th, Dread hit its LA premiere last Thursday, October 6th, at Laemmle Sunset 5 in Hollywood, CA, and chatted with the film’s director on the red carpet along with stars Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Zach Rand and Carlee Baker. We also brought back some ocular candy. Read on!
“It’s pretty crazy!” director McKee, whose previous and touted directorial efforts include the 2002 film May, 2006’s The Woods and the Masters of Horror episode “Sick Girl”, said of the buzz surrounding The Woman> (review here). “I’m excited. I’m amazed to be here on Sunset Boulevard. When I was in film school (at USC), we used to come here all of the time to see cool stuff.”
No stranger to subversive material, Dread queried the 36-year-old director as to what expressly attracted him to the project, a film which stands as somewhat of a sequel to the 2009 Andrew van den Houten-directed feature Offspring, which was penned by long-time McKee collaborator and author Jack Ketchum and stars Pollyanna McIntosh as ‘Woman’ (returning here to reprise the character in the sequel’s titular role).
“I really liked what Pollyanna did in Offspring, and I liked that character that she created,” said McKee, “and when they asked me what direction I’d like to go with the sequel, I said that I wanted to go a complete 180 degrees, and I’d like to take the villain from the previous film and turn her into the victim and ultimately the hero. To have villains (in The Woman) that are people that look like you and me was really exciting (too), and not just people in a bunch of monster makeup or any of that kind of stuff. The project was very inspired by things like Shadow of a Doubt by Alfred Hitchcock. That monster that might be living right next to you is really interesting to me.”
Produced by van den Houten and Robert Tonino and co-written by Jack Ketchum and McKee, The Woman revolves around successful rural lawyer and family man ‘Chris Cleek’ (actor Sean Bridgers), who upon stumbling upon a feral, forest-dwelling woman captures and detains her in his cellar in an attempt to ‘civilize’ her (although his personal machinations are anything but civilized). The on-screen abuse which ensues has led to much controversy following the film’s handful of screenings, evidenced in particular by the outraged response by a filmgoer at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (the incident was taped and subsequently went viral and undoubtedly assisted greatly in creating the buzz surrounding the film). There’s a bit more going on under the surface in The Woman than your average ‘torture porn’ film, however (The Woman has unfairly by some been labeled as such).
“That type of concept can only carry you so far,” mused McKee of the majority of the films which fall into that category. “I want to make three-dimensional characters. That’s the number one priority in anything that I do. I mean, we had an interesting concept about what it means to be civilized, and the shades of gray in between and all of that, but to me if you don’t have real people functioning within that, then why would you give a shit?”
“The character of ‘Woman’ is actually what we (as humans) came from,” the director continued. “I mean, she’s close to our animal selves. I found that endlessly fascinating because I think that a lot people have lost touch with the fact that they are animals. I mean we all are. We walk and talk and wear cool clothes and all of that kind of stuff, but we are still animals, and we still have to survive, but we know what we are doing (as humans), and that’s what’s scary. We have a consciousness, and well, animals have them, too.”
As for the scripted actions of the film’s father, a character which drives the film into subversion, McKee commented, “People are just the scariest thing on the planet to me as far as I concerned.”
Given the darkness of the material, we asked McKee of his approach, particularly in working with the film’s younger actors who portray the lawyer’s emotionally and physically abused brood.
“I took it really seriously,” he stated. “I made sure that I picked kids that were mature enough to handle it, and who had really good parents that were able to help me shield them from the things (in the script) that they didn’t need to know about. I had to design the shoot in a certain sort of way to make sure that the kids weren’t around anything that I felt was inappropriate, and that’s filmmaking though, so it was a really fun challenge. They (Zach Brand, Lauren Ashley Carter and Shyla Molhusen) are good kids, and they are really good actors.”
As for what’s next on the filmmaker’s plate, McKee said, “I’m writing. I’ve been touring with The Woman all year, but hopefully by this winter I’ll be able to prepare for my next thing, although I can’t say what it is, but I’m really excited about it.”
“Is it a genre piece?” we prodded.
“It’s just my type of film,” answered McKee. “There will always be dark elements to any film that I make. The Woman is just about as dark as I’ve ever gone, and I think maybe (with the next one) I need to push towards the light a little bit just for my own soul, you know?”
Arriving on the carpet, Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh dished regarding what interested her in reprising her role, one which in the past she has described as ‘challenging.’
“First off it’s really attractive when someone’s writing a script for you because they think you are good enough to carry a movie,” said McIntosh, who in addition to Offspring appeared in the horror feature Bats: Human Harvest. “From the purely egotistical basis that’s exciting, and from an artist’s perspective that’s exciting, because you think, ‘Well, I can really take this and collaborate with these people and make something that you feel a real part of from the start,’ so that attracted me. Also, I knew the character already from the Offspring book and film which I’d done, and I was just really excited about stepping back into that, kind of my raw female self. There’s such a license with that character to go to places that we all feel like going to sometimes that we don’t get to express normally.”
Was returning to the role cathartic for the actress, given the arc of that character and the demands of the role?
“Yes!” she laughed. “Honestly, people say to me, ‘Oh god you did this and did that! How could you go there?’ I feel like I was that person as a kid. I was that little creature as a kid, and I’m just really glad I can finally admit it!”
“The first reaction I experienced to the film was at Sundance from that guy, and it was really strong,” McIntosh mused of the continued buzz surrounding The Woman, “and luckily that was the only negative response that I’ve received from it. I haven’t had any negative questions at screenings, I haven’t had anyone Facebook me and tell me what an asshole I am, or how I am mistreating women or blah blah blah, but I have had wonderful messages from men and women alike saying how much they’ve been moved by the film and how much they’ve enjoyed it, and some really intelligent discussions at screenings about the film, too.”
Still, she wasn’t displeased by the results of the ‘Sundance Incident.’
“Oh my god, I must say I am so grateful for that dude being so furious,” said the actress. “(The reaction once the incident was posted to YouTube) was super fast. And you know, tell cinephiles that they can’t watch a movie and that it should be censored, and of course that movie becomes the most popular kid on the block, so he couldn’t have done us a bigger favor, and he did it for free!”
Regarding her current project, McIntosh dished, “I just wrapped two days ago and flew back from Luxembourg from a movie called Love Eternal, which was written and directed by Brendan Muldowney, who did a film called Savage, which wasn’t really a horror film but was at a lot of genre festivals because it’s kind of dark and quite violent. (With Love Eternal) he has adapted a Kei Oishi novel, the Japanese writer who wrote the book that The Grudge was based on.”
Of Muldowney’s adaptation of Love Eternal, “Brendan is a horror writer,” reflected the actress, “but it’s so funny to me because when I read the script, I had no idea that it was based on a horror novel because it has no element of horror about it at all, except that it’s got interesting dark characters and it’s about loss and being an outsider, which I think horror films often have, but it’s certainly taken away all of the extremely controversial stuff that was in the novel. It’s not in the script, but it’s a great sort of a dark romance, and I got to play a grieving woman who covers everything with sort of an insistent sense of hope, and it was exhausting to play, but I think we’ve got a good thing in the bag, so I’m quite excited.”
The Woman lead Sean Bridgers, who’s had a prolific television and film career, stated of his attraction to his character of the Cleek patriarch while on the carpet, “I liked the character’s flaws. He’s a sociopath, and he tries to control everyone, and he thinks that he can, and so there’s a certain amount of arrogance in the character that I hadn’t been able to play before, so that was intriguing. And the story itself! I mean, as an actor I’m not necessarily that interested in the role: it’s more if I like the story that I’m a part of. It doesn’t really matter to me what character I am, as long as I am in a good story. So it was the script itself that intrigued me.”
Given the hellish subject matter which unto itself may have required a suspension of audience disbelief, “There were things about it, though, that I wasn’t sure would work,” said Bridgers of The Woman’s narrative, “(particularly) the opening and the ending, and I was concerned about that. When I first read it I thought, ‘Well, if this doesn’t work and it isn’t accomplished in some way that at the time I couldn’t imagine, then we might really have a problem.’ I knew that the scenes themselves would sort of work and that we could make them work, but when I saw the film at Sundance, I was so pleased because Lucky is brilliant. What he did with those things that I myself couldn’t imagine, and Sean Spillane who did the score and Zach Passero the editor – they just did a great job of putting it together, and so the film as a whole is just really fresh, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
Concerning his approach to his character, a man whose misogyny boils beneath his measured façade, “I was just happy that someone gave me the ball,” Bridgers said. “Lucky had enough faith in me to say, ‘Yeah, carry this’ for the storyline of the family and all of that, because I get to drive some of it, and that was really great. Just the opportunity to be able to do something new is always a pleasure. I think the film’s a masterpiece.”
Young actor Zach Brand (who portrays Bridger’s adolescent male offspring who’s drawn inexorably downward as he looks to his depraved father for guidance) chimed in, “It was weird to play a character like that because he’s totally not like me. It was challenging to play someone as ‘dead’ as that character. It’s kind of hard not to show any emotions. I did a lot of research in preparing with my mother, and I looked to Sean and asked him what he knew about this, and he helped me in approaching it.”
Carlee Baker, who, too, was on the carpet, stated of her turn in The Woman (the actress portrays ‘Genevieve Raton,’ the high school teacher of Cleek daughter ‘Peggy’ whose concern for her student leads to places she couldn’t predict), “I see her as if she had just started working as a teacher and is a little unsure of where her boundaries are in regards to that, and I think that it actually takes a lot of balls to do what she does as a character. She’s thrust into such a topsy-turvy world where she doesn’t even understand what’s going on because everything is so bizarre that it’s almost impossible for her to kind of get a grasp on what her surroundings are. I think that’s kind of a cool thing.”
With paparazzi snapping away and others arriving to the carpet and premiere (including The Lost director Chris Sivertson, Brawler star Marc Senter, Madison County’s Ace Marrero and Joanna Sotomura, actress Brooke Lewis, filmmakers Sean Cain, Christian Ackerman and more), Baker (who previously appeared in the horror flick Wicked Lake) reflected of The Woman’s continued buzz, “It’s been amazing – more than I ever thought this little film capable of. It just keeps exceeding everyone’s expectations, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so. But it’s been really lovely and an amazing experience, and I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m just trying to experience it right now.”
For more information visit the official The Woman website.
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