Really good horror is hard to pull off. It takes restraint, attention to story, and a deft director to handle the many, many mechanics of strong atmosphere. Director Lucky McKee, behind the camera for The Woman, does exactly that and produces one of the best horror films of 2011. The violence isn’t man on man. It’s man on woman. Torture porn it is not, but – truthfully – this is a movie for the strong-stomached and not easily offended crowd. It’s a quiet film, for sure, but it screams with rancid beauty on its way to the slaughter yard.
The Woman is a difficult film to watch. It’s Americana values turned on its head. A feral woman, once wild and free, is enslaved and taught manners. Not content to be about only one thing, The Woman challenges its audiences with heavy material most films shy away from.
Introduced as your average American middle class family, The Cleeks certainly appear to be – ahem – normal…when in a crowd, that is. Nothing could be further from the truth when isolated from friends and relatives. No, The Cleeks are just this side of too far gone and out. Chris Gleek (Sean Bridgers), the father, leads with a vacant look but a commanding voice. He slaps Belle (Angela Bettis), his quiet wife, when she questions his actions or the decisions he makes for the family…including the one that will undue his family for good. She mentions his mistakes…especially what he is doing with the dogs….
Their son, Brian (Zach Rand, is darkly disturbed and loves to poke living things with sharp objects and perfect his free throw skills. Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) is their youngest and brightest, but seems to be unaffected by the general weirdness in their home while their other daughter, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) hides her pregnancy and a deep dark secret.
It is into this modern American volcano that Chris, after discovering her bathing in a river stream, decides to bring The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) home to roost. She’s dangerous (the first day she bites off his ring finger), dirty, doesn’t speak the language, and wild, wild, wild. She’s also a wee bit on the attractive side. And, Chris can’t let her go. No, he chains her in his basement. Turns out, Chris and his son are a bit of a psychotic team and their brutality toward the women in their lives has just begun.
This can’t end well, right?
Based on Jack Ketchum’s novel and co-written by McKee, The Woman knows exactly the weirdly wonderful path it follows. It embraces it and creates a memorable one with an ending that rips right into the very fabric of family matters. Unsettling as it is, The Woman holds a magnificent spell over its audience and doesn’t let go until the final – and genuinely badass – frame. Go ahead and guess what’s happening in those moments, wilderness reclaims its territory? The nuclear family for the modern age? Who knows? It’s seriously creepy, though.
Throughout the narrative, McKee shows great skill at the helm. He plays with sound effects and establishes a mood that only gets darker was the film reveals itself. He has a great control of sequence and establishes wonderful takes that are both artistic and independent. The vibe of The Woman is fresh, fresh, fresh in spite of a set-up that, on a surface level, seems supremely limiting.
Brutally engaging, McKee’s film does not go quietly into that dark night of horror. It’s a menacing little film and, quite possibly, might disturb you more than a film like Dead Girl did. You’ll find razor sharp wit, too. Full of brazen performances, The Woman demands an audience and who here is brave enough to disappoint her? Not I.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, torture, a rape, disturbing behavior, some graphic nudity, and language.
Director: Lucky McKee
Writer: Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum
Cast: Carlee Baker; Marcia Bennett; Angela Bettisl Pollyanna McIntosh; Shyla Molhusen
Tagline: Not every monster lives in the wild.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I never condoned what you did. Never. You just can't keep putting one thing on top of the other and expect to keep getting away with it forever. I've had it."
Distributor: Bloody Disgusting
Official Site: www.thewomanmovie.com
Release Date: October 14, 2011 (limited release)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 24, 2012
Synopsis: The Woman is a disturbing tale of torture and dirty little secrets that can haunt any seemingly harmless neighborhood. The story follows a successful country lawyer who captures and attempts to "civilize" the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast in the wild for decades, thereby putting the lives of his family in extreme jeopardy.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - January 24, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Locked to Region A
From Bloody Disgusting Selects, The Woman supports an impressive looking AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Colors are bright and crisp when the action takes place in daylight. There is a long sequence in the woods and the detail – full of leafy greens and brown earth tones – is phenomenal. It’s a very expressive palette and cinematographer Alex Vendler has captured a very beautiful film. Now, because large portions of the film take place in dimly lit areas where shadows are predominant, one must note how the shadows play against deep dark pitch black sequences. While there is a bit of a lightening in key scenes, shadows hold their shape nicely and remain thick and inky. The sound – presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix – is rich in dialogue and heavy with effects in the backwoods sonic fields. Overall, a nice expression and a worthy first-time HD release from the folks over at Bloody Disgusting.
Embracing the controversy it may or may not have caused at Sundance this year, the supplemental material opens with a making-of featurette that celebrates its visceral reaction from some and then goes into how the film was made. Surprise, surprise, a lot of it was filmed INSIDE a high school. Oh yeah, to attend that school. There’s not much else to the disc except for some deleted scenes that do more filling in of the story (a story which is strong for what it omits) and a twisted short film (Mi Burro) that played with The Woman at Sundance and Texas Frightmare Weekend and a music video.
- The Making of ‘The Woman’ (25 min)
- Deleted Scenes (6 min)
- ‘Mi Burro’ Short Film (7 min)
- Music Video (5 min)