Director – Lucky McKee
Cast – Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Chris Krzykowski, Carlee Baker, Pollyanna McIntosh, Marcia Bennett
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After the debacle and fallout over Lucky McKee’s first shot at an adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s work with 2008’s Red, Lucky McKee returns to the genre for the first time since his 2006 effort The Woods to give us possibly his most tense film to date, The Woman. A slow burning/building film that gives us more than the usual horror effort, The Woman gives us one of the better horror experiences of 2011, and a positive return to filmmaking for one of the genre’s best modern directors.
When a successful country lawyer captures the last remaining survivor of a violent animalistic clan while on a hunting trip, he brings the woman home with the intention to “civilize” her for his own enjoyment, putting himself and his family in grave danger.
This is not the first film I have seen regarding someone capturing a dangerous individual and stupidly holding him/her hostage, but the idea is one that is not used very often so it was nice to see something “new” given to us this year. I also enjoy films involving wilderness and “backwoods” people, and while this woman was more of a neanderthal than “backwoods” there was a nice take on that matter involving our “protagonists” that I will mention later in the review.
The story moves pretty slow, giving us plenty of development and lots of character work that I felt was not necessary in its severity but was at least fairly well-written for the most part. It does not take very long for the “horror” to take place, in which Chris Cleek, the father/husband of the family, captures the woman and binds her up in a makeshift holding cell in his cellar, however it takes a very long time for the horror to really develop into what made this film a memorable experience for me. After taking the woman hostage she remains in that state for the majority of the film, and we are instead forced to watch our main “protagonists” deal with their pre-existing issues going on before Chris brought the woman home, which then turned this film more into a drama effort than a horror film aside from a few scenes that showed our protagonists were really the true animals in the film, a writing tactic that I really enjoyed. Watching this simple country family succumb to the inner beast within us all was great, and the irony of them taking out their desires on the woman was great. Not all of our characters were as bad as the ones I am mentioning, but for most of the film the said characters did nothing to stop the torture of the woman, which leaves them complacent in my eyes. Speaking of characters, one element that left the film flat at times was how unlikable they all were. Each had their own issues, which was unique, but none of them were really worth rooting for or had me caring what happened to them. Had we been given at least one likeable main character I would have been more engaged in the experience. It is not until the closing sequence that the “real” horror kicks in, which I waited anxiously for throughout the film and was mostly positive in what we were given as a result of it. Some may see the climax as a bit cheesy and unlikely, but it’s bittersweet nature was pleasurable for me.
Lucky McKee did a good job directing this piece, executing the film in a pretty artistic fashion coming from creative camerawork, beautiful scenery and a musical score heavy in lesser-known musical artists, which altogether came off as a very Tarantino-esque directing approach The acting performances were good, with each actor selling their unlikeable characters to full quirky potential. However, the actress portraying the woman, Pollyanna McIntosh, stole the glory in this one. With few understandable speaking roles she was forced to use mannerisms and facial expressions to deliver her role, and she did so with great results, especially during the final sequence where she was really allowed to shine. McKee has never been known as a gorehound director, but The Woman marks his gore opus as we are given some great gore scenes and positive kill sequences during the final act, making for a nice ending to this slow-paced effort.
Overall, The Woman is a great return to filmmaking for Lucky McKee with a great slow-grinding story and good horror as well. The film is slow and the heavy elements of character play may leave you unenthused at times, but McKee makes up for it with a great third act that gives the viewer exactly what he/she came to see.