Directed by Lucky McKee
Available on limited edition steelbook
The Cleek’s are a middle class family living in rural America. While out hunting, the head of the family Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) stumbles across a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh). He decides to bring her back to the house and makes it the family project to civilise her.
The Woman is in essence a domestic drama framework with a weirder horror core to propel its story, and it is all the better for it. The family dynamic makes it much more compelling than if it were just your standard horror torture porn film. When you first meet the Cleek family, you can feel that there is a repressed air of fear over the downtrodden family members who are all under the control of the patriarch father Chris. Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) is the eldest of the children who has recently become quiet and introverted, Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) the youngest of the siblings is too young to be fully aware of what is going on and still has the innocence of youth, while Brian (Zach Rand) is the middle child, a teenage boy going through puberty and showing the clear nurtured influence of his father. Belle (Angela Bettis) is the quiet and tyrannized mother. Chris Cleek is the true villain of the film and I’d wager one of horrors greatest on screen villains from the past few years. Misogynistic, abusive, violent and of course so sure that he is right, he is a true monster and all the more horrible for the fact that he is so realistic. The distressing abusive relationships that make up the central drama of the film are all the more affecting for their realism. The Cleek’s could be a family that you live next to and you wouldn’t realise what was going on behind closed doors. Chris Cleek to the outside world is a seemingly quiet, mild and above all normal man, one that you would never imagine would be capable of such things, and he is played so well by Sean Bridgers with such a controlled and mild manner that helps realise a well-drawn and realistic character, that you believe he would do the things that he does. From his first conversation with his wife, the stilted family interactions and allusions to something bad going on with the dogs they keep in a shed, you get the terrible feeling of something not quite right in the family, even without the fact that they are keeping a feral woman chained up in the fruit cellar. The family drama is so effective that Chris’ first abusive act towards his wife comes as a true shock and is more uncomfortable than some of his interactions with the eponymous woman. The fact that you see his influence in the behaviour of his son shows a depressing reality to family relationships and the cause and effect of a child’s upbringing.
The eponymous woman of the film isn’t even really the victim of the film. Played with dead eyed and snarling brilliance, but with an intelligence and cunning behind the seemingly feral surface, by Pollyanna McIntosh, she may be chained up but she is less captive than the rest of the Cleek family. She fights for herself, plots and schemes to get loose, attempts to break free and, of course, gets to wreak the bloody revenge that the other Cleek woman can’t. She can be seen as an allegory for American foreign policy, the supposed civilised human beings making it their project to help the supposed uncivilised others, and also the sometime arrogance of upper classes and even humanity, thinking it is their duty to help the lower classes and even to try and bend nature to their own will. McKee highlights the irony that the monstrous and uncivilised isn’t always out there in the dark, often it’s inside in the light; inside our homes and right next to us every day.
With great cinematography, editing, a bit of black humour, and a lot of interesting and intense drama, Lucky McKee, working from his own co-written script, has crafted is a brilliant drama with horrific elements that builds to a fierce finale. If you haven’t already seen it, I would highly recommend checking out The Woman for yourself.
This new release comes in a great looking steelbook case with a handful of extras. A random short film about the animated adventures of a young Mexican boy and his donkey which is odd but amusing, a small selection of rightly excised deleted scenes, a pointless Meet the Makers short feature that seems to be lifted from in between the breaks of a television broadcast of film Offspring and contains footage from the Making of The Woman feature that is also on this release. That is a fairly interesting short documentary which, as per usual with this sort of thing, is a bit too gushing about what an amazing experience it all was but has some interesting details to it such as the interior sets being built in a school gym. It also contains a newly recorded Directors commentary from Lucky Mckee in which he answers some questions from people on twitter, talks about the process of getting the scripts together and making the film and also some of the disturbing stories he heard that influenced parts of the movie.