The Woman (2011)
Directed by: Lucky McKee
Written by: Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee
Starring: Angela Bettis, Brandon Gerald Fuller, Carlee Baker, Lauren Ashley Carter, Marcia Bennett, Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Shana Barry, Zach Rand
What is it all about?
When lawyer and proud family man Chris Cleek stumbles across a wild, feral woman bathing in a woodland stream near his isolated country home, he makes a decision that will dramatically change both their lives.
Capturing her, Chris chains The Woman up in the fruit cellar below his house, intending to tame and civilize her. But when the task at hand proves to be more difficult than first imagined, he sets in motion a collision course for a brutal showdown between his family and the wild female force of nature…
Before I start, I did not realise that The Woman was a sequel to the 2009 unknown cult hit Offspring!
Somehow this little detail was not mentioned to me even though I am one of the last of the HCF critics to set my horror eyes on this new horror that has caused waves of excitement and controversy at many horror festivals during this year. It was a good twenty minutes when I realised that I had been here before, way back in 2009 in fact when I was first introduced to this character of The Woman. As soon as my eyes clapped on the figure of Pollyanna McIntosh (who reprises the role), I realised to my shock that this was the same character that appeared in Andrew van den Houten’s Offspring, a straight to DVD horror that has gained many fans. How I missed this information is a shocker for someone who prides themselves on gathering as much info on new horror films, so you can imagine my surprise and even more new found added excitement towards a movie that I was already looking forward too!
The cause of my excitement was two things:
Reason number 1 was a man who helped generate all the publicity this film needed to succeed. His stand up routine during the Sundance Film Festival, in which he started screaming when the film was being played, in which he aired his disgust at what he claimed was a terrible portrayal at women. His words that the film should be “burned” had the film makers laughing all the way to the path of success because like The Human Centipede 2 has proved, bad press is good press if you are a horror film.
Reason number 2 was the man behind the camera, a certain Lucky McKee who fans will know directed the underrated 2002 horror masterpiece MAY and while he has never really followed upon that promise he showed, the fact he was back in the genre that served him well and reunited with MAY star Angela Bettis, (even though she has appeared in all his films since) made The Woman an attractive figure to look at…..so was the wait worth it?
My main surprise was that the film is not the original plot experience I was expecting! Memories of the equally good Dead Girl lingers long into the air with both films sharing a common theme, the imprisonment of “a woman” but instead of a zombie, this time we have a cannibalistic she-bitch who was last seen in Offspring fighting for her life after some humans fought back. Now with her clan dead and all alone, she lives in a cave where see her with a new baby, which if my memory serves me right, is some kind of cult tradition explained in the previous film. Her life is interrupted when she is spotted by the bastard Chris (Sean Bridgers), who captures her,chains her up and then subjects her to abuse while his family watch on!
Now I call him a bastard because he is! A horrible and I mean horrible creation who rules the family with an air of violence. His kids are scared of him, his wife tip toes around him and its his word or nothing. He really is in the mould of Stepfather Jerry Blake, a hideous man who in fact is the monster of this film and not The Woman who he keeps in the cellar! To be honest the biggest surprise of the film is the fact that the title character is a backdrop to the plot. The evil is all centred around Chris and there are strong currents of plot threads that surface now and again that even suggests that the father is in fact raping his own daughter Peg (Lauren Ashley Carter).
With a son who seems to be following in the path of his father, the film is heavy on the family theme and this plays more like a sick drama than a downright horror. The scary uncomfortable scenes is when Chris uses his fists on his family,everything else is just normal horror trait and I found it strange why a film would cause such fuss for a member of the audience. The constant rape scenes in the Dead Girl should have caused more ripples but then maybe the impact here is more stronger because the acting is fantastic and the direction by McKee is exquisite, it is without question his finest film since May and I really hope this kicks him in the right direction because I really do not want to wait another nine years for his next one!
The Woman is a fine watch that shows you can still make a challenging horror film! There is a great shock or better words “twist” at the climax which I never saw coming, and while it loses a few marks for the predicatable outcome, at its core this is a strong family horror with two of the best performances of the horror year in Bridgers and McIntosh who her in particular excells once more as the mute killer. They are both so good that you be asking the question……which one is the real monster!
The Woman is the third chapter in a series of books by Jack Ketchum which just leaves the adaption of Off Season to be made…….This horror fan is waiting for that day to come!