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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So far I haven't been that impressed with Lucky McKee's films, but with
The Woman he has become a director who has found his voice. It's a
singular and deeply personal vision and for the first time in a film of
his, it all comes together. I still find it difficult to put my finger
on what makes the film so upsetting and I will need another couple of
viewings to completely get my head around it, but this is part of the
In short, The Woman is about a man who, on a hunting trip, comes across and entraps a feral woman who lives in the woods. He decides to chain her up in his basement to 'civilise' her. He involves his family, as if this were a project like building a garden shed. As the film goes on it becomes clear that the man, a pillar of the community, has been mistreating the female members of his household for a long time and the character of "the woman" comes to personify and externalise what has been broken in that family all along.
While the last act erupts in bloody violence, it's the emotional violence and the effect on its characters that we experience along the way, which is really upsetting. There is also some pitch black humour in the film, which only makes the film more disturbing.
There has already been some controversy when there were walk-outs at Sundance where the film has been accused of misogyny, but I don't think that's the case. This is a feminist horror film, but one that avoids trite lectures and finger wagging moralising. Just because a film depicts something, doesn't mean it approves of it.
The film sits between something like a Todd Solondz film but without the hipster nihilism and the visceral rawness of recent French torture horror films like Martyrs or Inside but without the moral vacuity or leering voyeurism. Those looking for a straightforward shocker may be disappointed, because the film constantly side steps the conventions and clichés of the genre. McKee doesn't give you fake scares to jolt you or conventional suspense sequences and it doesn't "reward" you with violence, when you expect it. If you are open to McKee's approach then the film will crawl under your skin and it will fester there and that's what I call a real horror film.
The film's horror lies in its characters and in the unequal power dynamic between men and women. On the surface this may look like a film about a monster woman killing people or it maybe about a family trapping and abusing a feral women, but while those are aspects of the film, they aren't really what the film is about. The emotional pay off to these genre conventions is completely different from other modern horror films and their depiction never resorts to clichés. It's a film that gives an audience what it needs, rather than what it wants.
A note on the acting some comments have been complaining about. The performances by the entire cast are amazing. Those complaining about the actors in the film don't seem to get that the performances are non-naturalistic on purpose. The acting style fits the sense of allegory and heightened reality, yet the actors still get to the truth behind their characters. In a perfect world they should hand Sean Bridgers, who plays the father, the Oscar for best actor now and be done with it. Angela Bettis' fragile frame and sad face have never been put to better use. The actress who plays 'the woman' is truly ferocious and the kids are great too, especially the teenage daughter whose slow withdrawal from the world is painful to watch.
The use of a rock soundtrack in the film is also fantastic, which gives it a raw punk power and aesthetic. There is a moment where the mother allows herself to connect and identify with the 'woman's' plight, while a guitar chord drones on and it is absolutely exhilarating.
There are things in this film which during my initial viewing I reacted against and now when I think back on it, they were absolutely perfect creative choices. Shot digitally and looking it, using slow motion, fish eye lenses and many dissolves at times seemingly at random, the film is often quite ugly looking but this only adds to it's raw, ragged punk quality. The fate of one central character genuinely appalled me and for a moment I hated the film, but then thinking back, it was absolutely the right thing to do.
I'm a jaded viewer of horror movies by now and its not often that a film gets to genuinely mess with my head and leaves me richer for it. The horror genre needs more films like this.
The Woman tells the tale of a feral woman who is captured by, at least
on the surface, a traditional family man who is an attorney in a solo
practice. As the movie proceeds, it is clear that the man's patriarchy
goes way beyond, into that of a power-crazed maniac. The tension is
palpable between the man and his captured trophy as her presence in the
lives of the family members affects each differently. Be prepared for
shocking and intense graphic violence and plot twists you would never
expect. Not for the squeamish. The story is compelling and so are the
characters in this study of human nature.
The acting is practiced and believable. The writers have a good handle on the dynamics of domestic violence. I see this film as exemplifying domestic violence taken to its furthest extreme. How domestic violence perpetuates itself through the generations can be seen in the distance.
I like the way The Woman is the central character of the film while at the same time being incidental to the drama unfolding within the family unit.
I went into this movie expecting the worst but came out pleasantly
surprised. With all of the controversy regarding this film when that
guy walked out almost made me wonder if he was planted. I mean it
really wasn't all that gory and certaining not the most disturbing
movie out there.
Another reason why I thought this movie was going to be worse was Jack Ketchum's "The Girl Next Door" one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen that still makes me feel uncomfortable thinking about it even though I viewed it almost a year ago. That would be a movie I would totally understand why someone would freak out, in some ways I wish I had never seen that movie. Since "The Woman" was co-written by Jack Ketchum, I expected it to be along the same lines.
To get on with the review, I truly enjoyed this film. I have watch many (too many lol) horror films and to find one that is unique as well as well filmed is a rarity. This movie, contrary to popular belief is not all that violent or gory. Yes, there are scenes with abuse of a poor woman but it's really nothing you haven't seen before.
This was such a strange story as well. A seemingly perfect family, with its homemaker wife, successful lawyer husband, son and daughter living out what seems to be the "Leave it to Beaver" lifestyle. As the story goes on you learn that the father is seriously dysfunctional and drags his family down with him by capturing a wild woman and forcing the family to participate in her torture.
Strange, yet wonderfully filmed. I enjoyed this movie. It was also nice to be able to watch something so original and unique.
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The Woman- The movie opens with a seemingly happy family enjoying a
backyard BBQ with some friends. But it is apparent very soon that this
family has a lot of terrible secrets they are hiding. The wife seems to
be walking on eggshells around her husband, the teenage daughter is
having trouble at school, and the teenage son is showing signs of being
a psychopath like his father. The father may seem like the picture of
an upstanding citizen but is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.
During a hunting trip, the father finds a feral woman. But instead of calling the authorities, he brings her home to live with his family? He decides to make it a family project to clean her up and domesticate her. It is no surprise that things do not go as smoothly as he hoped. What follows is a disturbing gory end to the story.
From a woman's point of view, I saw this film as more of a piece about what is actually civilized and what is feral. The Woman could instinctively tell who was there to harm her or help her. She could easily read other people's emotions and reactions to what was happening to her. During the duration of the film, the father seems to act just as uncivilized as his captive, but displays it in a very different way than The Woman.
The movie was shocking, disgusting, thought provoking, and perverse. Horror fans will be be satisfied and cringing with the splatterfest ending.
Its funny that the first major notice this film got was because somebody stormed out of an early screening crying misogyny. Funny because The Woman in fact is a long way away from misogyny, in fact I'd almost be inclined to call it a feminist film. Its an account of an average American family going about their business, except for the fact that the father is a complete monster who one day brings home a feral woman from the woods, who he decides to educate. From the very start this is unusual stuff, with the titular woman hallucinating birth then slaughtering a wolf for food, and while not especially violent given its reputation some pretty heavy territory gets explored, domestic abuse, familial corruption and a visceral take on gender power conflict. The film is anchored in Sean Bridgers' performance as Chris Cleek, family man gone very, very wrong. He gives the character a constant menace, a smile, bright face and charming demeanour, a plastic outside so almost right, so not quite all there that it perfectly suggests his inner depravity, and in his depravity he is just as slick and even darkly humoured. The character is patriarchy at its most terrible extension, dedicated to control and dominance, assured of its utter superiority and quick to cruelty. It finds perfect match in the woman though, femininity in its most feral savagery. Pollyanna Mackintosh is wonderfully inhuman in the role, conveying sheer violent animalism through her body language and freakish guttural grunts and growling. The rest of the performances are strong stuff too, Angela Bettis as the meek wife of the piece, downtrodden to the point of barely having her own personality, Zach Rand as son Brian following in his fathers footsteps and Lauren Ashley Carter as daughter Peggy withdrawing into her own shell from the horror. Everyone gels well together, drawing the audience in so the punches hurt all the more. I won't go into too much of what occurs once the woman is imprisoned, but you can probably guess some of it, and the film does a great job in stirring up a sense of intense, boiling rage at the increasing dark events. The soundtrack is an important part of this, often using soft indie rock it works perfectly alongside the whitebread setting and in the way it underlines the travails of the children, but also makes a fine contrast to the nastier stuff. I must say there was almost nothing that I didn't care for in this one and it's by far the best US horror film I've seen in years. Lucky McKee directs with a sure hand, mixing jolting savagery with cruel, calculating drama and a few moments of affecting dreamlike melancholia, although the film does get somewhat melodramatic and the intense finale goes into feverish pulp territory slightly unsuited to the mostly just disturbing bulk of the film, things are always surely handled. Arguably the film could have rounded things out better, developing its themes into something more intellectually satisfying than simply bloody violence (though the bloody violence is pretty darned satisfying) but its a minor quibble really. 9/10, really great stuff.
I don't write a lot of reviews but this film gained a lot of publicity
after some guy at Sundance walked out (or got kicked out) for
complaining about the violence and misogyny in it. He was probably
right to walk out, but did so for all the wrong reasons. I didn't find
the movie particularly violent for the horror genre. What it was
lacking was better writing and character development. So adding the
review to give people a better idea of what they were getting, since
it's presently sitting at an 8.5 with no other reviews.
The mother and kids of the family and even "the woman" were fairly well acted and developed, although I find it hard to believe in any teenagers these days that will just do whatever their father says. Unfortunately, the father, teacher, and some other small parts seemed to be more caricature than character. The fact that it was not working was obvious, although how much of it can be blamed on bad writing, bad acting, or bad directing may be debatable. Unfortunately, the father is in almost every scene, so this caricature becomes the centerpiece that the rest of the film revolves around.
There are some other problems with sound choices and some of the worst use of music I've heard in any film. Almost every time one of these alt-pop tunes came on all I could think was "Really? They're using this to set the mood?!" I think only once during the course of the film, did a song come on that I thought "Oh, this almost, sort of works". Most of these songs would probably be fine on their own, but didn't seem to fit the mood of the film at all.
In addition occasional bad directing, lighting, and editing choices left me not being able to see or understand what was happening at certain points in the film or understanding why they edited the same shots cutting back and forth at times. This is most obvious in the opening scenes where they are showing the girl raised by wolves. It's a pretty common theme that's been done dozens of times before. Yet here they spend too much time on it, without actually developing it at all. Just a lot of jumpy cuts going back and forth to state the obvious, to the point that I started fast forwarding to get to the credits and see if the film was actually going anywhere. The credits really shouldn't be more interesting than the opening scenes. I would have much rather seen more development on the father's character and what his motivations were in these opening scenes. We never really get any of that, and as I said earlier, he's pivotal to the way every other character acts and reacts during the course of the film. Other than those complaints, the overall technical aspects of the film were pretty professional for an indie film.
The biggest problem for me though, was lack of any kind of suspense buildup. Something that is ever present in the best of horror films, and usually at least some hint of, even in a mediocre horror film. I was never really left wondering what was going to happen next, things just happened and we watched, but didn't feel much of anything for the characters involved.
I respect the director's decision to do something a bit out there in terms of film norms these days, and the ending might give you a bit of a chuckle, if you hang in there that long, but in the end found it to be a rather low end mediocre movie, so 5 out of 10.
Jack Ketchum's "The Woman" early scenes introduces a normal American middle class family in the Cleeks,a young successful lawyer father,his sympathetic wife and three children ranging from preschool age to mid teens attending a BBQ and enjoying life.The facade doesn't last too long, and soon enough Chris Cleek,while hunting stumbles across an escapee cannibal from "Offspring".He captures cannibal girl and puts her in the basement,where he tries to civilize her via torture and sexual degradation.The film becomes darker and darker as we see that Cleeks family has its own ugly secrets.Disturbing horror movie that mixes cannibalism with misogyny and dysfunctional hell.The acting is great,there are some upsetting shades of incest and plenty of nasty gore.The finale is extremely gory with plenty of blood spilled and guts eaten.Haven't read the novel yet,but its film adaptation by Lucky McKee is quite graphic.I wouldn't call it 'abhorrent',though.8 cannibals out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For the first 10 minutes of The Woman I thought that it will be yet
another low-budget horror movie, of the too crowded "torturing genre"
(there are dozens of movies of that type because they can fit in a very
low budget, just some red paint and fake body parts :)). Then the plot
suddenly grabs you, you have a clue about how it will end and you
really really hope that it will end this way.
This is a very strong movie, centralized around the concept of the strength of the human nature - not the weak and/or mind crippled "end product" of the 21st century, but the pure "core" of it. This is where the difference between this and the other movies starts. Usually, the victim of the killer-freak breaks instantly, getting into panic, horror and so on. Here, The Woman just can't be broken - she sees all of this just as another battle for survival, the thing she does all her life. She doesn't have a feeling for good/evil, just for what is right and wrong.
All of the actors play especially strong, showing (as I see it) all possible types of reactions to the madness of their world (coming from the pretty messed up father, think of it as Dexter, but at the same time exactly the opposite of Dexter). The mother, who wants to protect his children, but is too afraid to stand up against her husband. The son, who got messed up just like his father. The big daughter which is in constant shock and horror, and the little daughter who is trying "to block" by not acknowledging the evil (she is too old not to be able to understand all of this, and she never cried or got afraid, even in the brutal scenes).
At the end of the movie, The Woman prevails in the situation too quick (I was expecting a longer battle), but, I think that is the right way to do it - she is just too good compared to the father and the son - they are just the typical mad people, they don't have what she has.
I find the contrast between her and the human-dog thing a very nice final touch to the movie. Without it, it would seem that the movie makes a comparison between the father, an educated human-beast and her, an uneducated beast. But she clearly shows that she has more humanity than the father, and more humanity than the dog-freak.
Also I liked how she took care of the father - at the beginning, with the ring, she gave him that special look of determination while she ate part of him, and at the end she looked him the same way, as saying "told you it will end that way".
The sound effects are superb, and the standard visual horror special effects are used carefully, so they are OK too. The movie could use some more suspense in the last 20 minutes of it, and a better first scene.
Definitely take a look at it :)
The Woman arrives on DVD and Bluray amidst almost a year of controversy and festival runs. The picture was accused of misogyny, horrific violence, and bad music. Two of these three things are true. Let's just say certain musical selections don't really make sense in a film of this subject, and the violence will surely have innocents running for the door. "The Woman" sports a deeply feminist view upon domestic violence and the domination of man over women in contemporary society. However the film does not focus it's killer's eyes on the disturbing, horrible men featured here. A crucial moment underlines the idea that we all have the power to change a lurid situation drastically, and if you do not seize that opportunity, you are just as guilty as an aggressor. My heart broke for all the women in this film, including the titular cannibal. They endure some of the worst male behavior ever seen in a suburban, or civilized, society and the violence that embeds the last half hour is blunt and brutal. Director Lucky McKee injects so much energy into this film, but he doesn't glorify the violence. It's the audience's choice, myself included, to crack a smile when certain characters get what's coming to them. Prepare to be made uncomfortable, disturbed, scared, and finally short of breath by The Woman.
The person who wrote the previous review on here was so anal i had to join to write a review based on the view of an average movie goer. This is a flick so cleverly presented that the viewer does not realize what is going on till well into the film..Basically most horror films have tons of over the top guys with beards and tattoo's and guns taking advantage of four high school kids...In this lovely film, it is a "normal" whatever that is, family of five,who because of the father ,capture a woman and keep her in the basement. Without giving anything away, it is the first time the genre has been presented this way. The direction and camera angles keeps the suspense going.You identify with ALL the characters,you root for the good guys and boo the bad guys and don't know until the end what is going to happen.Thrilling story, excellent camera-work, the music that the young girl was listening to was her world, so you clicked with her when it came on. I loved this film. DEnnis
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