I kinda like how ”The Woman” came to be. From the information I have managed to gather, as a serious internet-based, self appointed movie reviewer, it all started back when this guy Andrew Van Den Houten adapted Jack Ketchum’s novel “Offspring”, which is in fact a sequel to the classic horror novel “Off Season”. I guess that “Offspring” (the movie) was successful enough to get this Van Den Houten guy thinking about a sequel, because as it turns out someone else owns the right to the first novel. The catch was that Ketchum had only written two novels!
What the hell are you gonna do, then? I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do: you get the original writer and one of the more talented guys among young horror directors together, and let them cook up a brand new story.
That’s what Van Den Houten did and when I say “one of the more talented guys”, I’m not talking about Van Den Houten himself, because even though I appreciated “Off Season” for what it was (a lean, mean, gory horror flick), this guy has nothing on Lucky McKee, who co-wrote and directed “The Woman”.
Now, if you’re not familiar with McKee’s body of work, you need to put out the joint you’re sucking on or put down that bottle of booze, right now. This has to be rectified, immediately. His debut “May” is one of the most assured first time-movies I’ve ever seen, with a magnificent performance by Angela Bettis. If this movie isn’t mentioned in all those “all time greatest horror films” in a couple of years, I’m gonna plunge head first into a lifelong depression, mark my words.
McKee followed this with “The Woods”, which was apparently tampered with by the studio but it’s still a pretty decent effort where the entire cast consists of a students at an catholic all girl school and honestly, who wants to argue with that artistic choice, huh?
Basically, McKee knows what he’s doing and the fact that he was attached to another Ketchum-adaptation (the 2008 effort “Red”) but dropped out due to artistic differences, gives you a hint that this guy isn’t just in it for the money. If he was, I guess that he could’ve directed one of the many remakes that’s been invading the horror scene these last couple of years. But he hasn’t. Which makes him an ok kinda guy, I guess. Everybody loves an artist with a vision, right?
Now, if you’re into horror at all, I mean just the slightest bit, and you’re not familiar with “The Woman”, I guess you’re kinda like the titular female character, which means that you’re spending your days in the wilderness, without contact with the civilized world. This movie created quite a stir when it was showed at Sundance and some guy started screaming that this movie should be banned and whatnot. I mean, for a day or two it was quite the interweb-sensation. But you know, that was a couple of months ago, so that’s ancient history by now. But after knowing all this, expectations were quite high when I sat down in the theatre to watch this one. I wondered if someone would start shouting and screaming at the festival showing I attended. I mean, I’m Swedish and we Swedes tend to be pretty liberal when it comes to movies’ contents, at least when it comes to the nudity part. Hell, we even released that “A Serbian Movie”-shit a couple of months ago, totally uncut!
Well, no one started screaming. In fact, most people seemed to enjoy it, unlike that Sundance guy. I don’t know what his problem was. I take it that he’s not a fan of Lucky McKee’s other flicks. Because, let me tell ya: this is a bold, original horror movie, exactly what the genre needs.
Just to be on the safe side, here’s the story for you who is in fact living in the wilderness: Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a successful country lawyer, who one day while out hunting comes across The Woman (Pollyanna Macintosh), the last surviving member of a cannibal clan who was roamed the Northeast American coast for decades. Naturally, like any red-blooded American he captures her and brings her home. His wife Belle (Angela Bettis) isn’t so thrilled. Not his daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), either. But you know, this is the kind of family where daddy knows best, so it doesn’t matter much what they say. His son Brian (Zach Rand), on the other hand, is much more fascinated with this creature that’s now living in their cellar…
I’ve always had a fascination with horror movies that takes a closer look at family dysfunctions and Jack Ketchum is the guy to take a closer look at this kind of thing. After all, he wrote “The Girl Next Door” which was turned into a pretty decent flick a couple of years back. The family depicted in this movie is right up there with the Sawyer clan from the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-movie, when it comes to fascinating families in the horror genre. Much of this is because Sean Bridgers and Angela Bettis’ fantastic performances as the parents. You know, when the movie starts out it’s kind of darkly humorous and this Bridgers guy has got this kind of Will Ferrell-thing going on, so you can’t help but laugh at him. He plays it like one of those Will Ferrell-characters that think that they are very authoritative but too stupid to realize that no one takes them seriously. Now imagine, if you were watching a Will Ferrell-movie like that, and then suddenly you realize that this stupid, funny guy actually beats his wife. That’s kind of how “The Woman” plays out, like a dark comedy that slowly but surely pulls the rug out from under you. And you know, when it’s finally pulled away, it’s really gone. You’re not gonna find that rug anywhere, man. Might as well just buy a new one…
But you know, Bridgers and Bettis isn’t the only ones who delivers a great performance in this one. This Pollyanna Macintosh chick that plays The Woman, she’s not afraid to let it all hang out, literally speaking. Most of the movie, she’s close to naked, but since her character doesn’t know how to speak, she communicates with looks and growls. And she’s pretty scary, let me tell ya! But like all good horror movie monsters, she’s oddly sympathetic, as well.
You gotta admire a movie like this, not for its gore and violence but for the fact that McKee & Ketchum has the guts to make a horror movie that examines the mechanisms of how men and women interact, even if it does mean that someone might accuse them of being misogynistic. McKee is that rare kind of director: a man who insists on making women his lead characters, and I applaud him for it. I hope this guy never loses his fascination with the female gender and keeps making movies like this. I don’t know what experiences McKee has had with his girlfriends, but man, I hope that they keep doing whatever the hell it is that they’re doing to him.
I’m still kind of amused by the fact that a movie like this can still manage to create a controversy. I mean, the last time I checked it was 2011, right? And even though I keep wishing for that goddamn DeLorean car from “Back To The Future” every goddamn Christmas, I never get it, which means it’s still good old 2011. But come on, we’ve seen pretty much by now. For anyone to say that this movie is misogynistic is just plain stupid. “The Woman” says more about how men treats women in this day and age than any drama I’ve seen recently. That doesn’t mean that you gotta run out there and do it, right? I thought we were passed this stage by now.
So good one there, Mr. McKee, for creating that rare kind of beast: a horror movie that keeps the gorehounds satisfied, as well as us pretentious assholes who keep insisting on looking for a deeper meaning, an allegory or shit like that.
I could go on and on about this movie. I still haven’t mentioned how McKee uses music to great effect or how this Zach Rand-kid looks exactly like one of those creepy kids that used to be on that scary “Seventh Heaven” TV show. I think it’s better if you just find out that for yourself. You won’t regret it. Rest assured: I have done myriads of things in my life that I regret. Watching “The Woman” wasn’t one of them.
Until next time: take scare!