Film: The Woman
UK Release date: Out Now
Director: Lucky Mckee
Starring: Carlee Baker, Pollyanna Mcintosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter
Running time: 104 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. You can however - if writer-director Lucky McKee is to be believed - kidnap them, chain them up in your cellar and domesticate them. When kooky lawyer and proud family man Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers - True Blood) stumbles across a wild, feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh - Exam) bathing in a woodland stream near his isolated country home, he makes a decision that will dramatically change both their lives. Quality time is given a whole new meaning when Chris takes home the ‘next family project’.
After capturing her, Chris chains The Woman up in a fruit cellar below his house, intending to tame and civilize her. Helping him in his civic duty are two daughters, a peculiar son and his put upon wife. Things don’t go according to plan; it is a horror movie after all, especially when you add a ferocious female force of nature to the mix. From author Jack Ketchum (The Girl Next Door, The Lost) and director Lucky McKee (May), The Woman is a deeply disturbing thriller only too happy to wallow in new depths of darkness and depravity.
Joining them for the ride are long-term collaborator Angela Bettis (May) - who has played a part in all of McKee’s output - Lauren Ashley Carter and Zach Rand. Bettis plays Chris’ long suffering wife Belle, a woman that knows and accepts her place in the home. As do the entire clan, Chris holds a tight reign over each of them, which is probably why they’re not at all surprised when he brings home a new toy to play with. Sean Bridgers is suitably offbeat as the man of the house, instantly recognisable as a bit of a nut job. Peggy (Carter) is the older of the two daughters, she used to be a breezy fun-loving girl, but a recent turn of events has left her cold and withdrawn. Being the youngest and most innocent of the two daughters, Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) is totally devoted to her loving parents, and son Brian (Rand) is following in his father’s footsteps in every way. They’re a captivating family unit that’s for sure – probably not the kind of neighbours you would want over for dinner though.
Some might call it misogynistic, not just with regards to The Woman of the title, but also at the expense of the other female cast members. Having said that, a gripping turn of events in the final act suggests otherwise, completing a picture that is no less complicated than the characters involved. It’s certainly unsettling, as well as terrifying, horrific and brutal, but McKee doesn’t dwell on the violence. His approach is less invasive, despite the savage nature of the premise. A lack of conflict within the family circle prevents the movie from digging deeper; because you would expect all kinds of moral dilemmas to arise from a situation like this. But McKee neglects this chain of thought, and even though an inner battle between right and wrong could’ve proved fruitful, The Woman leaves morality behind in favour of shocks and formality.
The final act is superbly crafted, but in going for the easy kill, The Woman’s bite loses some of its venom. Had he dared to dig a little deeper, McKee’s admirable oddity could’ve made a more lasting impression. There is a wonderful twist in the tale, and the ending is incredibly satisfying from a certain point of view, but The Woman loses points for being too conventional. The world is awash with messed up movies, soul-destroying entities that set out to shock, so much so you kind of expect it these days. The Woman is unconventional in a conventional way, favouring a final twist that has become synonymous with horror movies in general. Good job it’s a great one then, feeding off a truculent turn from Pollyanna McIntosh, and The Woman ends on a downbeat high note.
In failing to add depth to an impressive cast of characters, McKee has perhaps missed a trick or two, but the story he weaves is a solid one. With little to no humanity between them, it’s fair to assume that things wont end well for most of the characters. So you’ll be pleased to learn that they don’t, and if it’s brutality and bloodshed for all the family you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. The Woman isn’t always an easy watch, but it’s a captivating one none the less, and the final scenes are almost breathtaking.