Review: THE WOMAN (2011)

Crazy white dude gets his BLACK SNAKE MOAN on!

 

Directed by: Lucky McKee

Stars: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis

MPAA Rating: R

 

“What makes a monster, and what makes a man?”

This question was asked in a Disney song, but it is a sentiment that has been prevalent in fiction for quite some time. It was addressed in H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Outsider.” TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD lightly touched on it with the character of Boo Radley. Now, we can add Lucky McKee’s latest offering, THE WOMAN, to the list. How does it fare in it’s examination of what constitutes an enlightened human being?

THE WOMAN introduces us to The Cleeks, a seemingly all-American family that is normal to the outside world, but harbors dark, sinister secrets within their own walls. The domineering and abusive patriarch spots a feral woman living in the woods on one of his hunting trips. He captures her, chains her in the cellar, and engages his family in the task of “civilizing” her. Each member has their own ideas about how to accomplish this. Some are relatively innocent, others not so much.

THE WOMAN manages to be an interesting combination of the Pygmalion myth and the “Woman Held in Captivity” stories that, unfortunately, are all too true and have popped up in film and books periodically, even by co-author Jack Ketchum. The set-up feels vaguely familiar, but the way the story plays out is consistently surprising and unpredictable. There are also layers of meaning and thematic subtext at play, some more than others.

Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee have crafted a diabolical fable that manages to be disturbing, haunting, engrossing, and smart. McKee’s assured direction proves once again that he is a genre filmmaker worthy of our attention. The acting by the entire cast is top-notch. It seems unfair to single anyone out, but Pollyanna McIntosh is a force that cannot be denied in this film. She gives a brave and fierce performance as the titular Woman. Sean Bridgers also makes a terrifying impression as the calm, deliberate psychopath with a mostly understated disdain for the fairer sex. And Angela Bettis gives yet another amazing performance as his frail, worn-down, and obedient wife.

The lighting and general look of the film feels organic, giving us a naturalism that accompanies the all-too-realistic domestic situation portrayed. The special effects by Robert Kurtzman and David Greathouse are outstanding, convincing even towards the end when things get especially nasty. The soundtrack for the film is incredible, too. It is very distinctive, with songs that feel like a subtle invasion in certain key scenes, much like the family into the life of this Woman.

In summation, THE WOMAN is a fascinating, horrifying, and completely unforgettable experience. It intelligently explores gender politics, the struggles of power and disempowerment, and the nature of civility. It manages all of this whilst still delivering a shocking and gory horror movie.

THE WOMAN is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and via iTunes. It comes highly recommended by this critic.

 

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