The Woman Reviews
Hated the father and son in this - just couldn't wait to see the wild woman get them.
Very disturbing story about an outwardly perfect family and what daddy really does for kicks.
Don't want to say more an ruin it for anyone.
It's baffling to me that this film is being marketed as a straight-up horror film; because after watching it, I can say with much confidence that it's anything but. "The Woman" is more like a provocative and deeply perturbing drama with a blood-soaked finale; in which explosions of brutal violence come from all directions, lending it the label of a horror-show. Still, if you're observant of time; you'll notice that the nastiness only really starts in the last twenty minutes of the movie, although it's quite apparent that the film has been building up a whole lot of hatred and stark nihilism throughout the other eighty. Disturbing, pretty much from beginning to end, "The Woman" is perfect anti-entertainment; there wasn't a moment that I can say I actually enjoyed watching it, although it drew me in more than half the films of last year even had the potential or chance to, and I'm mighty grateful for that. It's directed with style, yes, but I think above all it should be admired and respected for the script; which shows great empathy and understanding for its characters, consistently messing with our perceptions of good and evil.
The Cleek family is an all-American one; a textbook example of their kind. They commute to their community, socialize within their home, and care for one another. And hey, look at that, even dad has a recreational pastime. The members of the Cleek household are father/husband Chris (Sean Bridgers), mother/wife Belle (Angela Bettis), adolescent son Brian (Zach Rand), young child Darlin (Shyla Molhusen), and teenage daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter). Every member of the family has their own issues: by the end we're convinced that dad's a psychopath, mother is genuinely weak and anything but strong-willed, son is quicker to ponder adulthood than most, and daughter is a depressed Goth Girl, minus the piercings. But these problems are just going to keep on stacking up upon one-another; as the biggest of big problems has yet to rear its ugly head.
Father - Chris - likes to hunt; and one night, he partakes in a rather eventful trip to the nearby woods. While scoping out potential prey with his weapon of choice, he spots a primitive woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) bathing in the creek. Entrapped by her alluring figure, Chris vows to return the next day and capture her, which he does. He then brings the woman home, has her hung by chains in the backyard cellar, and proceeds to devise a family-wide plan to properly "civilize" his discovery. She is underdeveloped, and cannot speak the English language like we do; instead communicating through aggressive snarls and peculiar teething methods (in a particularly gruesome scene, she bites Chris's ring finger clean off). The women of the family disapprove of them keeping this "thing" in their basement; although it's Brian who eventually sides with his old man, desperate to become on himself. In the next few days, we'll witness the dark side of humanity; one character at a time.
Say you've got a weak stomach, and you cringe at the thought of films such as "Hostel" and "Saw". If this is indeed the case, you definitely don't want to be seeing "The Woman"; for it is the kind of movie that is relentless towards personal preference or feeling. I mentioned earlier that it's only terribly bloody in its final moments, and I stick to my word, but there's an ever-building sense of dread throughout (not to mention some absolutely disgusting scenes in which Chris feeds the woman) that makes the film incredibly disturbing. It's a difficult watch, and it's generated some controversy over "misogynistic themes", but I object. In my eyes, it's a strictly feminist film; and if it's cynical towards any group of people, it's humanity as a whole. The film is not selective of gender, race, or social class; it tells a story in which just about everyone is evil, depending on your definition of the term.
A lot of people who see this movie are going to either hate it or love it. Nevertheless, you probably won't enjoy it. "The Woman" is not entertainment, but at the same time, it's not offensive or particularly exploitative either. Through dark humor and tense horrors, it creates scathing social commentary on those who we consider "normal" or "civilized". Its themes and messages have been done before, yes, but most Hollywood movies would have either sugarcoated the ideas that it has on its mind, or they wouldn't have dealt with them at all. This is a flawlessly acted, brilliantly directed art-house horror-drama with enough on its mind to engage and intrigue. It was ultimately compelling enough for me to care about its characters and resonate with its message. At this point, I don't care what anyone says: this is a fantastic film, unpleasant and strange as it is.
"The Woman" was written and directed by Lucky McKee; a sequel to Jack Ketchum's "Offspring", which got an absolutely brainless film adaptation. McKee has once again startled and moved me simultaneously, just as he did with his darkly beautiful "May", which was one of my favorite horror films of this past decade. "The Woman" once again proves that he has a voice; and it deserves to be heard. I can neither recommend nor discourage you from seeing the film; all I know is that I found it to be kind of brilliant. It got under my skin, it made me think a whole lot, and it's not a cheap morality tale; you know, the kind that I feared it might have been. But McKee does not disappoint. He has a vision, and even if it's an uncompromising and unforgiving one, he isn't afraid of anything. He survived the criticism and backlashing that "The Woman" received after its initial screening at the Cannes Film Festival, and this is where the movie has brought him. Through repulsion and disgust, he evokes a much deeper sadness that lies beneath. I hope people will see and admire the film; although I would also expect they'd cease to enjoy it, for to do so would be shameless and perverse.
In a film that raised a lot of controversy at Sundance we follow a family whos main man Mr. Cleek captures a woman who they are trying to civilize. As Mrs.Cleek questions this decision Mr.Cleek slaps her and casually goes back to bed. You'd think this would be a first warning sign, or maybe a second the first being that he captured a woman. Later in on the film the son of the family takes a peek at the woman inside the cellar to see his father raping her, the next day the son takes the same action while masturbating to himself torturing the women. The wife snaps after Mr.Cleek makes it seem like it's perfectly fine and "boys will be boys", after she announces shes leaving him he bets her and directs his oldest daughter Peg to get her a cold towel. When it gets really weird is when the teacher comes, and I'll let you watch that scene on your own. Lucky McKee takes risks and I respect that, it was controversial and well rightfully so. He wanted to shock us and he did.
The Woman has an unsettling feel throughout as we explore the possibilities of what goes on behind the closed doors of "normal folk" and this does get pretty dark at times but you can't ignore the talents of director Lucky McKee and the cast, including Angela Bettis who stared in McKee's brilliant May, a few years back, who really throw thmselves into it.
The ending might be to much for some as it turns from dark horror/drama to almost exploitataive splatter but its very well done, I think, as it just throws something unexpected into the mix. Maybe not for everyone, but The Woman is a brutal and powerful horror film.
This was a very enjoyable and a different horror film that I don't give it a higher because the ending seemed a bit rushed.
Also the soundtrack got on my nerves so badly, I literally wanted to turn down the volume on more than one ocasion. It's insistent and pointlessly indie.
Props for some ideas that hang around and for being rather well shot but other than that, not worth the fuss.
The whole thing starts out weird and gradually thrusts you into a world that takes weirdness to a whole new level, a disturbing film with a message that many won't want to acknowledge. What looks to be a simple horror film works on so many different levels, at times appearing to be even comedic until the earth-shattering conclusion.
I honestly could not believe what I was seeing, and it's one of the few movies I've ever seen to honestly leave me speechless. At the center of it all, even eclipsing the commanding presence of Pollyanna McIntosh in the title role is a relatively unknown actor by the name of Sean Bridgers as the male lead. He's so good in a difficult role as a guy you love to hate. He sort of comes across as a maniacal Will Ferrel in a part that even Ferrel would be afraid to play. It's a daring performance in an equally daring film that takes us down some dark paths, and yet succeeds in making me want more.
The frantic, jaw-dropping conclusion happens fast and may warrant repeat viewings, but I suggest that a second viewing of "The Woman" would still maintain its impact. It's a film that I won't soon forget.
It almost seems like the whole "locking up a woman/girl in your basement" thing has become its own sub-genre of horror, like found-footage has. There are quite a few: An American Crime, The Girl Next Door, Deadgirl, and the list goes on and on.
The Woman is the same, and its core premise is that a man finds a feral woman while hunting, locks her up in his cellar, and "attempts to civilize her." Much like all of the above films, this film is shocking, grotesque, and perverse. I recall this film being somewhat controversial when it began screening at film festivals, and heard many stories about people getting physically ill, booing, and walking out of the theater. To which I say, Have you not seen Deadgirl?! Jesus, this movie is like Sesame Street in comparison. But I digress.
You see, the thing that always gets me about most of these movies, and I have seen all of the films I previously mentioned, is that they rarely seem to have any real message to convey. Yes, people are cruel. I could turn on the news, or read a comments section of a YouTube video and figure that out. I don't necessarily need a 2 hour film to tell me that.
The interesting thing about The Woman, however, is that it ends up playing out more like a good ol' Korean revenge film. Our central character suffers greatly, but they get their extremely graphic, gore riddled revenge at the end. And trust me, the end of this film goes all in, and actually brings up more questions than it answers, but it's fine, because everything is insane, and the catharsis so great that you don't need answers to those questions. And, oddly enough, it leaves me hoping for a sequel, or at least some continuation of the story, however unlikely that may be.
One of the great accolades I'd give onto this film is it's ability to build a dense atmosphere of uneasiness. Even before things start being explicitly explained about the central members of the family, there is enough subtle subtext and nuance in acting from certain actors that you always know something is not quite right here, even if it's not immediately spelled out for you.
Getting down to brass tacks, here, should you watch this film? It's hard to say, yet again. Much like with Nymphomaniac, there is definitely something to appreciate in the film, but it is a grind to get through. I'm not sure the conclusion, no matter how satisfying emotionally, makes the entire journey worthwhile. If you're in the mood for a film that makes a statement on human cruelty, and how inaction is just cruel as striking the blows yourself, there are better choices, Compliance, for example, also available on Netflix. It's possible to speak to those themes without gore and graphic perversion, so I'd have to tell you to pass on this one.