Directed by Lucky McKee
Distributed by Bloody Disgusting Selects
Social satire or straight-up horror movie? Misogynistic or an attack on misogyny itself? These are just a few of the questions that The Woman has raised with audiences and critics since its debut during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and throughout its subsequent festival run that followed. And whether viewers see the film as a powerful portrait of misogyny, a thinking man’s social satire or simply a brutal little horror flick there’s one thing for sure, Lucky McKee’s The Woman has definitely proven to be an unflinching and memorable experience regardless of your final thoughts on the movie.
In The Woman, Pollyanna McIntosh plays the titular woman who is the last surviving member of a cannibal tribe who lives like a feral animal in the woods. While bathing in a stream, she is spotted by country lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) who captures her and takes her home, eventually chaining her up in his cellar. Much to the surprise of his wife (Angela Bettis) and his children, Chris announces to his family that he intends to civilize the woman (after losing a finger no less) and he sets about a campaign of increasing sadism and cruelty, shedding light on the evil side of his own nature.
From there, The Woman takes viewers on a frequently shocking and emotionally charged journey, twisting and turning but always leading unavoidably to its unforgettable climax. From the outset, The Woman is one of those films in which everything indicates things won’t end well for those involved and that’s putting it mildly. Shocking and jarring doesn’t quite seem to do the film’s third act any justice- it’s better seen and experienced for yourself if you feel like you’re up for the task.
In terms of performances, everyone in The Woman delivers strong material, especially Bridgers who takes a role ripened with patriarchal hypocrisy and just digs right in delivering a mesmerizing performance. It’s hard to tell at times whether or not the actor is playing it ‘straight’ or not with his performance as Chris Cleek but I think that’s what’s brilliant about Bridgers work here; the ambiguity to it all elevates everything in THE WOMAN to an entirely different level.
And while I no doubt enjoyed The Woman, I did just have a few minor issues with the flick. The soundtrack for the film doesn’t even feel like it fits the movie it’s being played over. And while I have no issues with indie rock itself, the movie almost doesn’t work because of the ‘teen angst-eqsue’ soundtrack (thankfully McKee’s work here is strong enough to endure terrible music). Something else that almost turned me off with The Woman was the story’s overall message; there’s no doubt that The Woman is engaging and well directed but the material is also very manipulative and morally black and white; the thinly veiled points it makes about gender relations, familial dysfunction, spousal abuse and contemporary morality are all hammered home with unwavering intensity.
This was an issue I had with another Ketchum film adaptation The Girl Next Door which leads me to believe this is more about the source material than the director but regardless of my issues- Ketchum certainly knows how to write challenging stories and McKee is the right guy to bring those stories to life (The Woman being far superior to The Girl Next Door by far).
In terms of Blu-ray and DVD packages, The Woman marks Bloody Disgusting Selects’ first foray into high definition and it’s a very welcome one. The image is razor sharp revealing an incredible amount of clarity even during the film’s many shots that are dimly lit. Also on the stellar side of the fence is the disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Stellar that is if you can stand the music. Still, every grunt, growl, and scream sound awesome.
In terms of special features things kick off with a twenty-five minute making-of the shows off where the controversy behind this flick began and brings us right up to speed. From there we get about five minutes of deleted scenes, a music video and the six-minute animated short film, Mi Burro, which played with the flick at last year’s Sundance.
While it’s obvious button pushing is evident, The Woman remains a highly effective piece of cinema; its depiction of domestic abuse is unwavering with McKee’s abrupt execution and even though there’s quite a few gore-ified moments in the flick, The Woman works best when the psychological horror of Ketchum’s story that sets in and holds you in its grip for the entire third act of the film.
The Woman is far more than the sum of its shocking subject matter and a few groan-inducing gore moments (sensitive viewers be ready to squirm)– it’s an unflinching and ballsy film which serves as a great reminder that there’s still powerful storytelling alive in the horror genre. Kudos to McKee for taking some risks and following through with one of the most intriguing and challenging films of the year.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5