The very successful, if not a little controversial, American horror writer Jack Ketchum surpasses the overused tagline ‘putting the horror back into horror’ by actually doing it. His novels, mostly devoid of supernatural elements, are instead loaded with the cruellest facets of man, showing that Earth’s most evolved creature can sometimes be nothing more than a baseless animal. My favourite horror film of all time, The Girl Next Door (yes, the 2004 nude teen comedy…) was based on a Jack Ketchum novel, and gave me the first insight into his unique style of character and story structure. His newest film The Woman has made a huge splash in the horror scene, taking awards and being called, by some, a masterpiece. Is it hype or is there a classic to see when you’ve scrubbed off all the stale blood?
The story focuses on a traditional American family; traditional in all the wrong ways. The father Chris (Sean Bridgers) acts as the unquestioned patriarch over his housewife Belle (Angela Bettis), moulded and disturbed son Brian (Zach Rand) and socially isolated daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter). His belief that a male run society is the cornerstone of civilization presents itself in the worst opportunity when, on a hunting trip, he spots a feral woman (Pollyanna Mcintosh) washing her body in the ravine. In no time he captures and shackles her in his cellar. His request to his family to help him tame her quickly becomes a front for sadistic cruelty, and not the first he’s committed either.
With its emphasis on hierarchies within clans and the increasing depravity of such, it feels as if Ketchum is recycling ideas from The Girl Next Door, from the premise itself down to the image of the suspended naked woman. However knowing its predecessor only makes the changeups more effective, and in general it nails the point far better, with a superb twist at the end prompting huge questions over where boundaries lie in civilisation.
It’s an uncomfortable film to sit through; purportedly forcing journalists to bail on its Sundance screening, yet the accusations of it being torture porn are unfounded. Through clever camera and editing tricks we don’t see quite so much of the more brutal moments, though you’re mind’s eye will remember them in full detail. The music choice is certainly unconventional, but it serves a purpose and creates an atmosphere. Where the film loses the most marks is the final appeal to the gore hungry market; the effects are great, and rather sickening, but after leaving so much to the imagination the full detail just kills the seriousness.
Aside from one or two hiccups the acting is round the board solid. It’s implied the woman was raised by wolves, and you’d believe that watching Pollyanna Mcintosh’s stare’s that seems to project an animalistic thought process. Her dialogue consists mainly of snarls with one or two instances of botched English, yet she exudes a character very well constructed. At first Sean Bridgers plays his central performance a bit too much like Will Ferrel if he was an asshole, but his upbeat, jokey demeanour becomes more and more despicable. In the film’s earlier scenes we actually buy into his lies that he’s trying to help this girl, and there are singular moments of jocular cruelty that stand completely on their own. It’s a shame we never find out this sexist, monstrous man’s back-story and upbringing, as it would make a good film by itself.
Thanks to the attention stolen by the perversion to cinema that is the Human Centipede II, this wonderful exploration into the true definition of horror will likely go unnoticed. When I first saw The Girl Next Door there were moments where my friend couldn’t watch, even though nothing was on screen. This is an entire movie in that mindset, and though it’s sullied by tacked on fake blood and guts it’s in its own league, and guaranteed to steal some sleep.
Words > Graham Ashton
Director Lucky McKee’s harrowing but darkly comic study of the darkness of human nature, The Woman, has polarized opinions since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film’s journey to the UK has taken in a premiere at FrightFest, where it was one of the most talked about and enthusiastically received films, a UK-wide cinema release and from 17th October 2011, The Woman will be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray.
To celebrate we have a limited edition cinema poster signed by Lucky McKee and Pollyanna McIntosh and a Blu-ray to give away to one top prize winner, plus 2 runners-up will receive a Blu-ray.
To stand a chance of winning complete the proverb that makes up the film’s tag line: “Hell hath no fury…”
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more at the official website www.thewomanfilm.com