The Woman (2011)
Lucky McKees latest film "The Woman" is his second adaptation of a Jack Ketchum novel. His first was for Ketchams "Red." It's also technically the sequel to the movie "The Offspring." A film McKee had nothing to do with. Interestingly however, Pollyanna Mcintosh plays the same character (the Woman herself) in both films.
Picking up essentially where "The Offspring" left off, The woman is nursing injuries but continues to hunt in the forest of rural Maine. She kills what we can assume is a dog (it happens off screen) before she imagines herself being raised by wolves. Cut to the Northeasts perfect Waspy barbecue, where we meet the Cleeks who seem to be going through all kinds of machinations to prove they are the perfect white American family. Patriarch Chris (Sean Bridgers), is a big fish in a small town, the lawyer everyone trusts. His lovely, perfect wife Belle (McKee favorite Angela Bettis) does everything she can to help Chris maintain his facade. Their kids mingle with the crowd, only receiving a rebuke when three year old Darlin' tries to kiss a "black" boy. Ahh, racism. Peggy, the Cleeks oldest daughter does her best not to flirt with the boys at the pool. Son Brian relentlessly practices free throws to please his father. All seems well in the land of the Cleeks.
Chris decides that some hunting maybe in order. The forest is pretty quiet though. Chris is about to pack it up when he notices something that catches his eye. The woman is topless, cleaning herself in a small stream. He immediately returns home with a skip in his step and tells his family to get ready for something big. Rebuffing their inquiries, the family begins to be a bit suspicious, but you don't question Chris Cleek.
It doesn't take long before he is able to hunt down and trap the woman. He hauls her back to the family property and strings her up in the barn. He briefly attempts to clean her face up, so she naturally bites off his finger. Pissed, he decides she must pay. He smacks her around a bit. She seems to like that, so he moves to a different course of action. Taking his revolver he places a shot right next to her right ear, blowing out her eardrum I'd imagine. After earning a little complacency from the woman Chris decides its a good time to introduce his latest catch to his family.
Meanwhile, Peg begins having trouble in school. Her abnormally hot (for a geometry teacher at least) teacher takes an interest in what is bothering her. Brian in the meantime continues shooting free throws. He's pretty consistent at 7 out of 10. This pleases his father, after all it's the fundamentals that win games. Belle has the gall to question what Chris is doing with the woman and if its a smart idea. That gets her a swift smack across the face. Pegs school issues continue to worsen.
The beatings and the violence continue to escalate as Chris tries to domesticate the woman. She refuses to eat, but eventually breaks down. During her down time, she is busy working to free one of the bolts out of the wall. Belle notices and sells the Woman out to her husband, who quickly rectifies that situation. Chris finally feels she's complacent enough to try and bathe her. Buckets and water don't work so he brushes off the old power sprayer. Peg tries to defend her but gets her own lesson in Chris Cleek respect. Chris teaches her how to say "please" and "thank you" - the two most important words in perfect white America, except for "not in my back yard."
Finally having cleaned her up, Chris decides to move on to the next step of his fool proof domestication plan - the rape. Sneaking out one night he goes to the barn and has his way with his new prize. Unbeknownst to him, Brian has followed him out to the barn and is spying on his father while the rape is happening. Chris slyly slides back into bed, but Belle is awake and knows all.
Brian gets out of school early the next day and decides to visit the Woman and have a little father inspired fun himself. Peg is home and catches Brian in the act. After Chris refuses to rebuke Brian for his actions, Belle is fed up and announces she is leaving Chris and Brian to their sick games. Chris beats the shit out of her, knocking her out. She hits the floor as the there is a knock at the door. Pegs inappropriately dressed teacher has shown up to discuss Pegs possible pregnancy. Chris of course thinks she is implying that he raped Peg (which he did). He and Brian knock her out, hog tie her and drag her to the barn. They throw her in the dog pen and wait for he carnage to ensue.
Peg takes the opportunity to steal the key and free the woman. Belle runs after Peg but it's too late the Woman attacks Belle, biting her face off. back in the barn, as the dogs come closer to the teacher, she is attacked by another feral human who the family has been keeping in the dog pen. it proceeds to rip her apart. Chris and Brian are pleased with their work when to door slides open and the Woman is their to dole out her form of justice. The Woman, Peg, Darlin' and the man/dog creature all head into the forest to start what we can only assume is another feral human colony.
The Woman gained a bit of notoriety after a few screeners walked out of some showing of the film. It's easy to see why they were offended. The violence against women is off the charts here, and if you focus on just that then it's easy to understand why some people would take offense. But there is a bigger picture with this movie that those screeners missed. It's not about who you are on the outside, it's about whats on the inside.
The movie has so much positive going for it. The performances are top notch. The horror genre is lucky to claim someone as talented as Angela Bettis as one of its champions. She stands out here. So does Lauren Ashley Carter as Peggy. Kristen Stewart should watch this performance to try to learn about playing teenage angst. The only black mark against the acting in the film comes from Chris himself, Sean Bridgers. He plays Chris way too broad. It's almost as if he watched Terry O'Quinn in "The Stepfather" on a loop for days straight and decided he needed to take it up a notch. The role would have benefited from a little more subtlety.
Overall though, if you have the stomach for it, you need to see this film.
**** out of *****