On Tuesday, January 24th, co-writer/director Lucky McKee’s controversial deconstruction of the ideal American family, The Woman, will be released everywhere on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD platforms courtesy of Bloody Disgusting Selects. Dread Central recently caught up with McKee for an exclusive interview to discuss his latest directorial efforts, balancing shock versus substance and more. The filmmaker also answers his critics over the outrage many felt by the story he and co-writer Jack Ketchum crafted for The Woman.
The titular character in McKee’s The Woman (played by Pollyanna McIntosh) first appeared in Andrew van den Houten’s 2009 flick Offspring. McKee, who was a big fan of the film, discussed just how a sequel came about after meeting van den Houten and why he came on board to not only tackle a film but a book project as well that teamed him up with legendary genre writer Jack Ketchum.
“I really loved that they kept Pollyanna’s character alive at the end of Offspring, and when I met with Andrew, who directed that film, I told him I had always wanted to write both a movie and a book from the ground up, and that’s how The Woman came about. I thought she’d be a great character to continue following into this story, and while Andrew worked on raising the money, I was working with Jack on the book and the script. That was a really a great experience, too, since I’d never done that before. I’d definitely love to work with Jack again.”
McKee knew going into The Woman that his efforts would be met with controversy. He discussed his thoughts on tackling such hot-button issues like rape, gender roles, sexuality and man’s primitive nature, just to name a few. “You know, every issue we explored in The Woman wasn’t necessarily what I would call fun, but we went in with the intention of just being very honest about those issues, and I think we pulled that off. There was a lot to jump off of just from the ‘woman’ character as she became a symbol for a lot of different things: abuse, empowerment and even our primitive self.”
“The Cleek Family represented my version of an ‘American nightmare’ – they needed to be despicable characters – but we also didn’t want to lay it on thick where they’re standing around twirling their mustaches either. So we threw in a lot of elements to keep that balance, especially when it came to the character of the father, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers)- we made sure he was charming and likable to outside characters just so he wasn’t only an evil shit, and his actions always kept the viewers just a little off-balance because you never knew what he’d do next and whether it would be terrifying, hysterical or both,” added McKee.
Of course McKee never dreamed about ever replacing Offspring‘s McIntosh when it came time to begin production on The Woman; the director discussed how it was the actress’ performance that served as the inspiration behind him wanting to do a sequel to van den Houten’s original flick.
“Pollyanna was fantastic in Andrew’s movie, and after seeing her performance, I thought she’d make a great new female warrior-type character in the horror genre, said McKee. “She was absolutely ready to get down in the dirt for The Woman whenever she needed to also. She did have some concerns at first, but we talked about them, and she was game for anything as long as it had a purpose; once she realized everything she’d be going through was to serve the story, I think that eased her mind a lot.”
“There’s a lot in The Woman that we could have done differently and made it purely exploitative, but we didn’t go that route. Sure, there’s still a lot of shocking stuff going on, but for a lot of the situations – like the scene with Brian (Zach Rand) and the ‘woman’ in the basement – it would have just felt wrong to actually film those scenes; the horror is in just imagining what is going on,” added McKee.
After a highly successful festival run in 2011 that was met with a lot of outrage along the way, we asked McKee to talk about his experiences while trying to maintain a handle on the controversy and his thoughts on people who misunderstand what The Woman truly celebrates: female empowerment.
McKee explained, “I wasn’t trying to make a shocking movie just for the sake of shocking people; that doesn’t interest me as a filmmaker. Sure, there’s a lot of shocking things that happen in my movie, but they all serve the story. I think people forget that I make stories about strong women, not the opposite, so I understand why they may be missing out on the message of The Woman; but my intention was never to objectify woman or exploit them either.”
“Frankly, I had a lot of anger inside me about the world of movies around the time we were working on this so this was me making my ‘fuck you’ movie. I knew the fact that it is unapologetically brutal was going to get under the skin of a lot of people, but my hope is that people don’t judge the movie until they see it for themselves and see what I really was going for with my story,” added McKee.
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