Sunday, May 6, 2012

McKee and Ketchum don't hit their women...

THE WOMAN (2011)
D. Lucky McKee
Bloody Disgusting

I went into this movie fully expecting to hate it. The trailer sort of misrepresents it as a wry, almost hip black comedy with the indie music taking the forefront juxtaposing the tone. I also am not a big fan of director McKee as his films as wildly uneven in tone, usually top heavy with comedy that barely works, and purposefully quirky characters that I find more annoying that endearing. In fact the only of McKee's films I actually like is the one film he was thrown off of; the adaption of Jack Ketchum's dramatic novel RED about an elderly man's dog that is killed by some teens and the horrific fall out that ensues.

Here McKee and Ketchum team up again writing the novella this film was based on. Which goes a long way towards explaining the ultimate tone of THE WOMAN, because all of McKee's quirky humor seems to be missing or at the very least tempered here. This is very much a Ketchum film through and through with only the style having the feel of McKee but it all gels amazingly well.

The story is actually a distant sequel to Ketchum's book/film THE OFFSPRING about a mutant cannibal clan the travel the east coast. Here one of the last survivors of that story, a lone mutant, cannibal woman is wondering a very small New England forest town. She is discovered by the Father of a nuclear family while hunting. He captures her and brings her home keeping her in the cellar of the barn, making her the project of the whole family. Intending to “civilize” her through any means necessary, but mostly keeping her chained and tormented. It soon becomes clear that the family that seems functional and happy on the surface is actually extremely dysfunctional just underneath. Seething with abuse, violence and sexual horror. 

The film starts as a slow burn until it hits a fifteen to twenty minute climax of shattering violence that hits you in the gut. But that violence is not the most unsettling stuff in the movie. The growing sense of unease as you begin to realize just how unhealthy the family is gets under your skin for more.


As the film progresses we realize that the elder daughter is clearly pregnant and it doesn't take a genius to deduce that she has probably been sexually abused by her father. Yet as the movie goes further we realize that the young boy of the family is indeed a violence prone monster, as he confronts the bound woman at one point and sexually tortures her with a pair of pliers. So maybe he is responsible for her condition. It is never really ever said. One terrible scene has the Father sneak away in the middle of the night to finally satiate his evil needs with the bound woman. As he rapes the woman (surprisingly well handled, with well chosen shots that make it less offensive than it could have been) there are two cutaways give us more information than we get the rest of the movie. One to the eldest daughter and another to the very young daughter. These two cuts tell us that the Father had previous snuck away in the night to do the same thing to his daughters as he has now done to the woman. When he returns to bed to his wife her face tells us she also knows what he has been up to.

THE WOMAN plays the material very straight ratcheting up the tension as it goes, revealing more and more about the family holding the Woman captive until we get a huge secret in the last reel that fires off the violence. The movie works because it manages to take a character who cannot talk, who is essentially a savage by all intents, and makes her completely sympathetic by contrasting her to the complete seething evil of the “civilized” characters. The horrors we do witness are really everyday things that are unfortunate real life things like abuse, incest and family secrets. The ideas of passing evil along family lines through bad parenting are very real horror and THE WOMAN explores them thoroughly.

Some people have complained about Lucky McKee's use of music in the film which is scored with a string of indie rock. It is jarring at first, in fact the first instance doesn't quite work. But from there on out the awkward juxtaposition actually works surprisingly well. Contrasting the sterile small town environment, it adds a level of realism.

The movie came to a lot of attention when it played Sundance last year and an audience patron flipped out making an ass of himself. The video of him freaking out went viral giving the film a lot of attention. I am still not convinced this wasn't a wrestling style work, but if it wasn't this guy certainly was throwing a fit that was uncalled for. The film is extremely effective and at times very hard to sit through, but to accuse it of being anti-woman, or anti-human is to miss the point entirely. But then to flip your shit and demand any movie be censored shows a lack of being reasonable.

THE WOMAN is easily Lucky McKee's finest film to date and well worth your time. 

Review © Andrew Copp

No comments:

Post a Comment