Director: Lucky McKee
Screenplay: Lucky McKee, Jack Ketchum
Cast: Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Pollyanna McIntosh
Producers: Andrew van den Houten, Robert Tonino, Loren Semmens, Frank Olsen, Robert D. Krzykowski, Elaine Marie Gibson
Print Source: Modernciné
When it comes to horror, women are the genre’s punching bag. While some “final girls” do stand up and fight, historically, females have more frequently played victims in horror films than they have villains or victors. Feminist filmmaker Lucky McKee (THE WOODS, MAY) examines this paradigm and turns it on its ear in an incendiary new intellectual revenge film, THE WOMAN.
Handsome family man and successful lawyer Christopher Cleek (Sean Bridgers, TRUE BLOOD) lives a quiet, idyllic life in the country with his wife Belle (MAY’s Angela Bettis) and their three children. But when dear old dad traps and kidnaps a feral woman and chains her up in the cellar, the polished veneer cracks. And as Chris attempts to “civilize” the woman through a series of harrowing acts of violence, his true nature is revealed.
The film is based on a screenplay co-written by McKee and author Jack Ketchum (THE PASSENGER, THE LOST), no stranger to controversy. His 1989 novel The Girl Next Door was banned and for many years considered unfilmable due to its graphic portrayal of abuse. Enter production company Modernciné, who adapted that novel for screen in 2007, followed by Ketchum’s OFFSPRING in 2009. Conceived as a loose sequel to OFFSPRING, THE WOMAN stars Pollyanna McIntosh (BURKE AND HARE, also at fantasia this year) in a reprisal of her role as the matriarch of the nomadic cannibalistic clan that chewed its way through Maine.
THE WOMAN boasts powerful performances from its two female leads. McIntosh is downright frightening while Bettis’s battered wife Belle inspires sadness, sympathy and frustration. It’s an unusual film best described as a subversive fable, a cautionary tale that explores how fear, manipulation, gender inequality and the imbalance of power within the home can turn seemingly normal people into monsters. And, finally, what happens when that balance of power shifts dramatically toward the powerless. It’s a deeply disturbing film that has provoked intense audience reaction at screenings. One enraged Sundance attendee went so far as to declare that the movie be “confiscated and burned.” In the hands of a less capable filmmaker, THE WOMAN might have emerged as another soulless, exploitive entry in the so-called torture porn movement. Instead, McKee deftly delivers a dreamy, elegant, emotionally demanding feminist revenge film that challenges conventions on almost every level, right down to his musical choices. Bizarre, barbaric, beautiful and fiercely unapologetic, THE WOMAN rises above as a wholly unique meditation on the horrors of misogyny.