Lucky McKee's "The Woman"

Saw this at Frightfest last night and thought it was an amazing and thought provoking film. So far I haven't been that impressed with Lucky McKee's films, but with The Woman it becomes clear that there is a director who has found his voice. Its a singular and clearly quite personal vision and for the first time in a film of his it all comes together. I still find it difficult to put my finger on what makes this film so upsetting and I will need another couple of viewings to completely get my head around it, but this is its genius.

In short, the film is about a man who, who on a hunting trip, comes across and entraps a feral woman who lives in the woods and he decides to keep her in the basement to 'civilise' her. He involves his family like this is a project akin to building a garden shed. As the film goes on it becomes clear that the man, a pillar of the community, has been abusive to the female members in his household for a long time and the character of "the women" comes to personify and externalise what's broken in that family all along.

While the last act erupts in bloody violence, it's the emotional violence and the truthfulness of its characterisation that is really upsetting. There is also some pitch black humour in the film, that only makes it more upsetting. There has already been some controversy when there were walk outs at Sundance where the film has been accused of misogyny, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact this is a genuinely feminist horror film, but one that completely avoids trite lectures and finger wagging moralising. Just because a film depicts something doesn't mean it approves of it. The men's mistreatment of the women in the film is so appalling because its so matter of fact and the film makes some strong points about gender relations.

Those looking for a straightforward horror film may be disappointed, because the film constantly avoids the conventions and cliches of a horror film. This doesn't give you fake scares to jolt you or conventional suspense sequences and it doesn't "reward" you with violence when you expect it, but if you are open to it then it will crawl under your skin and it will fester there. It's real horror lies in its characters and it the power dynamic between men and women.

The performances by the entire cast are amazing. In a perfect world they would hand Sean Bridgers who plays the father, the Oscar for best actor now and be done with it, though this is the type of film the Academy will never nominate for anything. This isn't the middlebrow indie fodder the Oscars reward, it's genuinely transgressive cinema. Angela Bettis' fragile frame and sad face have never been put to better use as the mother, the actress who plays the woman is truly ferocious and the kids are great too, especially the teenage daughter whose slow withdrawal from the world is painful to watch.

The use of a rock soundtrack in the film is also fantastic, which gives it a raw punk power and aesthetic. There is a moment where the mother allows herself to connect and identify with the 'woman's' plight, while to a guitar chord drones on and it is absolutely exhilarating and yet impossible to describe because nobody else would think of doing it this way.

Anyway, sorry for my rambling thoughts on the film, but that is what makes it so great. A horror film that eschews superficial thrills, but which gets deep inside you if you let it. I'm a jaded viewer by now and its not often that a film gets to genuinely mess with my head and leaves me richer for it.

Glad to see that the Frighfest audience has an open mind because this isn't your regular horror movie. It's closer to something Todd Solondz (Happiness, Palindromes) would make, but much more raw and to me at least, more truthful as well. There were a few walkouts by those who didn't get the film, but otherwise you could hear a pin drop during the screening and it got a huge round of applause. Pretty good for a film that doesn't give an audience what it wants, it gives it what it needs.

This review sums up my thoughts nicely and also gets into the Sundance thing a bit:

The Woman Official Trailer - Monster Pictures - In Cinemas August 18 2011 - YouTube
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I just posted a re-written version of this review on IMDB, so don't come accusing me of ripping off other people again, like last year. :D


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Watched this last night. A Chunk of it does play like some dark black comedy.

The performances were great and the last 10 minutes goes into Hyperdrive:eek::D


Distinguished Member
Thanks Todd as i have been unable to get to frightfest this year so i will keep my eyes open for this one.. & a really good review btw.

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