Director Lucky McKee’s most recent film, The Woman, garnered a lot of critical praise at Sundance in 2011 but gained the most publicity when some old codger decided to have a freak out that was caught on tape where he said the film was degrading to women and demanded it be burned. Luckily for the sake of art and free speech, the negative was not burned and the film has indeed been released on DVD and Blu-ray.
The film follows the Cleek family and their zany adventures trying to ‘civilize’ a wild woman the patriarch finds in the woods. I put civilize in quotes back there because that’s how the film is officially described, but in my book giving someone a bath and making them wear clothes doesn’t actually amount to trying to civilize them. No, for that, one must teach them proper dining etiquette. Obviously, as this is branded a horror film, the titular woman chained up in the basement must cause some havoc, though she’s not the true villain in this story.
It takes awhile for us to get our first death, but we’re eventually treated to four of them, all clumped together.
Much like the kills, most of the ills come at the end of the film. As we’re dealing with cannibalism, we get a lot of biting and some eating of human flesh. Someone is cut in half, a heart is ripped out, but yeah, mostly just chomp-chomp-chomping here. Oh, with a side of rape. Can’t forget the rape and molestation, though it’s not shot graphically so grandma doesn’t have to leave the room.
First we see The Woman all dirty and nasty with her boobs out and it’s gross. Then later she gets a power washer bath and she cleans up nice, showing off some bare breasts and some bush.
Women are actually good for three things, and one of those things is eating people’s faces.
The Woman threatened to lose it immediately during its too-long raised by wolves Woman in the woods opening. It feels completely unrelated to the rest of the film. When things get started for real, the film is actually hilarious. It’s not clear why people where so upset at the movie or how anyone could call it misogynistic. Sure, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) and his son are total male assholes, but saying that makes the film misogynistic is like saying Saw is pro-murdering people in elaborate games. Chris is clearly the bad guy here.
Some people were apparently troubled or disturbed by the film, but Bridgers’ performance was over the top sunshine in an effort to show how normal this dark character tried to be. It was tough to take anything in the movie seriously, which means I may have had a drastically different experience from everyone else. The cinematography is bright and cheery – the film takes place mostly during daylight, and the musical choices are all pop songs. In trying to have a stark contrast between the images and the music, it sort of played like circus music over a massacre. Granted the film does manage to get a little gross here and there and abandon the pop music, but overall the film was darkly comic and not overly graphic, scary, or overtly demented.
Viewed through that lens, the movie isn’t bad, though the hype doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t offensive or shocking. I’d say I half-way enjoyed it. I don’t think Lucky McKee shoots violence and gore very well – there are plenty of opportunities to really hammer home the horror of the situation, though we never see it. That aspect of the film was underwhelming. Further, speaking of the violence, I’m not entirely certain how a piece of wood was used to chop someone in half, nor do I really understand the decision to have the 125lb Woman be able to toss another 100lb+ person through the air like a rag doll.
The Woman is best described as a Lucky McKee film. If you like his work, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t, you won’t. It features Angela Bettis as Belle Cleek, who has been in all of McKee’s films, and the movie, intentionally or not, bears his off kilter style. Again, I don’t really see the horror in this movie as it plays out in a fairly comedic way. McKee’s friend Sean Spillane wrote, composed, and performed a pretty awesome soundtrack for the film though, which should definitely be checked out.
When all is said and done, The Woman is not a great film. It’s a bit goofy at times, which may not have been intentional, and doesn’t handle the horror and violence in a way that would make a true impact. It does have some good moments within it and if you approach it with tempered expectations you might enjoy it. It’s also important that the film comes from the brain of Jack Ketchum, who wrote The Offspring, a semi-prequel to this flick. Ketchum is a dude that doesn’t mind having a ton of kids die in his stories, which I totally respect.
Anyway, I’m torn on this flick. I don’t get the hype or horror around it, but ultimately I enjoyed bits and pieces of it, even though it’s oddly comedic and goes awry in shooting the violence. The Blu-ray is presented well though, with a song from the soundtrack, deleted scenes, and a making of featurette.