What’s it about?
Lucky McKee could yet prove to be one of the most exciting American filmmakers working in horror. He’s a million miles away from the anodyne studio system churning out remakes and uninspired fodder and delivers a chilling experience with The Woman.
What is emerging too, from the three pictures made so far, is a view of humanity which is unsettling and focused on the sheer weirdness of people. From this, the horror grows. McKee is less interested in supernatural concerns and more on how utterly horrific human beings can be to each other, and how lonely. This is a cold world countered with lashings of pitch black humour.
Here we have a story featuring a cannibal killer and a truly despicable sadist, and the cannibal comes off as the hero – that’s how warped this movie, based on a novel by Jack Ketchum, is.
Sean Bridgers is excellent as Chris Cleek, a man so downright evil and twisted, you’ll cheer when he gets his comeuppance during the gore deluxe finale. There are plenty out there who can’t stomach Ketchum’s unrelenting misanthropy and the buzz surrounding The Woman might have damaged its impact somewhat. It really isn’t as original or controversial as made out.
Chris Cleek is your ordinary family man (on the surface) with a dutiful (read: brutalised and frightened) wife and three children. They live in a nice rural home and one day he goes hunting and captures a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh). The woman is a character from a previous Ketchum adaptation called Offspring and here takes centre stage. What follows is a dissection of apple pie, middle class America with a side order of grotesque.
How’s the picture and sound?
The Woman is a nasty picture but it’s a damn fine looking one. Alex Vendler’s cinematography is very well realised and faces the challenging of making a movie, set predominantly during the day, a scary experience. Sean Spillane’s score and songs are a bit more problematic. The pop-rock tunes are meant to work as counter-point to the imagery and unsettle due to their clashing effect. Sometimes it’s just intrusive. One can appreciate what McKee was trying to do aesthetically but it might not work for everybody. You get the choice of 5.1 Dolby Stereo and 2.0 stereo. This is a film with great sound design so if you’ve got a kick-ass sound system, it’ll deliver.
A good twenty-five minutes long ‘making of’ looking at various aspects of the production accompanies a few deleted scenes, a short featurette on Lucky McKee (which cheats and uses stuff from the making of), a wacky animated short film ‘Mi Burro’ and music video. Not the best collection and a commentary would have been nice because The Woman deserves talking about and McKee’s thoughts would have been most welcome. Not bad, though, in general.
So it’s good, right?
It’s definitely worth seeing. However there are tonal issues and the grand guignol finale silly when put against the slow-burn discomfort of the previous ninety-minutes. The audience deserves a pay off, sure, but it’s over-blown stuff. We get gore-a-plenty and actually owes a debt to Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs. This lessens it further despite it being a great ‘what-the-fuck?!’ moment.
The Woman is very well made, an insidious watch and Lucky McKee is one to keep an eye on. This film is a must-see for those who like their horror with, no pun intended, brains. Still, not everything works. That damn hype machine can sometimes do films a disservice when they don’t live up to expectation. Yet this demonstrates how strong McKee’s direction can be that even with a movie packed with problems, it still collects praise and strong responses.
Extra Features Rating:
When’s it out?
The Woman is unleashed 17th October