“The Woman” came to the festival with a reputation of being extremely brutal and incredibly violent, as well as being equally disturbing. It is also the latest film from Lucky McKee, who really hasn’t matched the potential he showed with his film “May” back in 2002.
This film takes a look at brutality under the guise of civility, as well as looking into the animal or maybe more appropriately, monster, that is capable amongst us all. One day while hunting in nearby woods, Chris comes across a feral woman, who lives more like an animal than human. He ends up catching the woman and brings her home where he lives with the rest of his family, his wife, son and two daughters. He ties the woman up in his garage and explains to his family that together they will help this woman, and to try and make her civil and thus to be able to exist and live in the real world.
However, right from the start you have a feeling that this isn’t going to work because he treats the woman like an animal, rather than a human, with very little respect and the methods he uses in the name of civility are anything but. While doing all of this, his son, Walter, watches intently and soon a change in his behavior is noticeable. He has started becoming disrespectful, rude and even violent, especially towards his mother. He is starting to become an animal himself. In fact the only people who treat the poor woman with any respect are the two girls, Peggy and little “Darlin’”. Peggy, the teenage daughter, has her own problems to deal with, as she has fallen pregnant (with all the indicators suggesting that her dad is the father). Belle, Chris’s wife, is a meek creature, obviously scared of her husband and in conflict in general, however when Chris starts to sexually abuse the tied up woman, she has had enough and decides to finally leave her husband with her girls. This moment is the catalyst to the brutal finale.
What most people do not know is that “The Woman” is actually a sequel (or follow-up) to a terrible horror film called “Offspring”, where the woman is the leader of a feral caveman-like gang, who kidnap local children, while killing and eating the kid’s parents. It is such a bad movie with terrible performances from all involved. At the end of that movie, the woman is stabbed, and she begins “The Woman” with the same wound, even though it is never explained. Also the scene at the beginning where the father witnesses her bathing in the lake is almost identical to a similar scene in “Offspring”. That, however, is where the similarities end because the level of quality of this film is so far superior to its predecessor it’s not funny.
McKee really shines here with his directorial touches and I especially loved the way he shot the woman, choosing angles that made her look menacing even while tied up. Speaking of the woman, she is played again by Pollyanna McIntosh, and her performance here is amazing. Since the woman cannot speak, she emotes through her eyes and body language, and truly excels. It is actually hard to believe that this is the same actress playing the same role as in “Offspring” but it certainly is. McKee’s regular muse, Angela Bettis, shows up again here as the mother of the family, Belle, a fragile, almost permanently scared woman, and she has a fantastic moment near the end when she finally stands up to her abusive husband.
In regards to the controversy associated with this film, I thought that it was all hyperbole. Sure, the film is disturbing and yes, very brutal, but I don’t think it was any more so than a number of other horror movies we’ve seen recently. In fact in testament of this, not one person walked out of this screening, which says something. In regards to the gore effects, I was very impressed by the work done here by Robert Kurtzman (formerly the “K” in KNB effects), they are incredibly bloody and lifelike.
Overall, I really like this film, it was a massive step up from the woeful “Offspring” and pleasingly, it is Lucky McKee’s best film since “May”.