The Woman

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 3 Stars - Some Beef, Horror | Posted on 18-10-2011

The first I heard about The Woman, it was via a Youtube video of a man who was thrown out of a screening at The Sundance Film Festival as he was so incensed by it. It’s quite an interesting watch, the official from Sundance displays a masterclass in how to deal with irate customers, and the guy actually comes across as a bit of an arse. However, his arguments did nothing to make me want to watch the film. I’ve always loved horror films but the recent trend for ‘torture porn’ does not float my boat one little bit. I watch horror films because I love the feeling of being scared, adrenaline pumping, wondering when the killer is going to strike. I don’t want to see people chained up with no chance of escape while various imaginative cruelties are performed upon them. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I just don’t see the fun in it, it’s just nasty for the sake of it.

The only reason I finally decided to watch The Woman was because I thought it would be interesting to write about. It’s directed and written by Lucky McKee, who was also responsible for 2002’s May. May is a rare creature indeed, a film about loneliness seen through the prism of horror. I liked it a lot, and recommend you hunt it down if it sounds like your bag. It helped to give me some faith that his new film must be about more than the angry Sundance man said it would be… and it is.

Just as May was really a film about loneliness, The Woman is really a film about domestic violence and a certain type of man who needs to feel power over women. The film centres on a family, The Cleek’s, who although initially picture postcard perfect looking, clearly have something going on under the surface. The smiles are a little too tight, the wife a little too timid, the father a little too cordial, the daughter depressed, the son disconnected… Things aren’t right, and just to drive that home, Daddy’s decided to trap a feral woman he found in the forest, so that they can “civilise” her.

The origins of the titular woman (she’s never given a name, which seems a strange omission if the goal IS to civilise her, which clearly it isn’t) are unknown to us, although it’s suggested that she was raised by wolves. Sadly Mogwli she is not, she can’t speak, she’s filthy and she eats live animals. She HAS managed to fashion quite a sexy rag ensemble for herself though, so that’s nice.

She’s locked in a cellar, and introduced to the family…. who take it well enough that we know those tight smiles hide abuse. The scenes between the female members of the family and the woman are beautifully done, the actors manage to convey a huge amount with no verbal communication. The wife (Belle) is played by Angela Bettis, who also starred in May, and she’s just as good here. The rest of the cast are excellent too, excepting the daughter, Peggy’s, teacher, who is rotten. If I tried to act, that’s what I’d look like, she’s THAT bad.

The violence is kept to a minimum early on, and, despite fears to the contrary, this isn’t torture porn. The father, Chris, seems less interested in cruelty for the sake of it, and more in power. He is as violent as he feels he needs to be, unlike the son, who seems more of an unformed psychopath, trying to emulate his father, without any of his power. Chris Cleek wants his women under his control and the hold he has over his family is terrifying. We see just enough to know how far he goes to hold onto this power, and until towards the end, it’s mostly shot (relatively) tastefully. Even the scenes of sexual violence (which are normally the one thing I can’t deal with) didn’t feel exploitative to me. The perpetrators are the pathetic ones here, not the victims.

I honestly thought I would hate The Woman, but I didn’t. It’s a film about the darkness that can lurk under a perfect surface, and has the same air of the surreal that pervaded May. Sadly, It all falls apart a bit at the end, with a slightly ‘throw enough shit at the wall, and some of it will stick’ air to it. All together though, The Woman is a tale about misogyny, rather than one that glorifies it. The women are the heroes here, and I think Lucky McKee is a man who really likes women. Sadly, there is something about the horror genre that seems to attract men that really don’t. So, it’s nice to finally see a horror film that has that air to it, and I really hope Lucky McKee (awesome name BTW) , and others like him, get to continue to make films…. Saying all that, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it as a film experience. I’m never going to enjoy watching women be tied up and subjugated, no matter how tastefully it is shot. However, I respected it and think its heart is in the right place, and that’s just as important sometimes.

Comments (2)

Amazing website! How can I add it to bookmarks?

Gee wliilekrs, that’s such a great post!

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