W is for Woman, that's good enough for me
Today's review is a special one. I received a lovely comment a few days ago about the blog which came with a special request to review today's movie. I love getting feedback (well, positive feedback anyway) and am always glad to hear that people are enjoying my reviews. After watching over 200 horror movies, it's nice to know I am helping people avoid or discover horror movies and hopefully entertain them as well. The request was for the movie The Woman. A friend of mine has previously watched the movie and was pretty down on it. Horror can be very divisive and one persons hate-a-thon can be another person's lovefest. All reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. I am still angry over listening to a review praising A History Of Violence. That movie was painfully bad and I will never understand how someone can give it 4 stars. The only way to find out if you'll like a movie or not is to see it with your own eyes. So Laura, this review is for you. If anyone else is interested in requesting a movie for me to review, please leave me a comment or send me a message on Twitter @365daysofhorror.
The Woman is a 2011 horror movies directed by Lucky McKee (Masters of Horror: Sick Girl, The Woods) and starring Pollyanna McIntosh (Bats, Land of the Lost) as the Woman. Woman is a feral cannibal living in the woods all her life. While out hunting, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers, Deadwood, Nell) discovers the woman and kidnaps her. He brings her back to his home and chains her up in a cellar in hopes of civilizing her. He forces his wife Belle (Angela Bettis, Masters of Horror: Sick Girl, Toolbox Murders), his daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter, Rising Stars, Law & Order SVU), and son Brian to assist him in civilizing the woman. Peggy has become distant in recent months, sitting out of gym class, wearing baggy clothes, and crying. Brian has become sadistic, enjoying seeing people in pain and torturing classmates. Chris's methods of “civilization” are cruel and violent such as washing the woman in boiling water and then with a high-powered hose. That night when the rest of the house is supposedly asleep, Chris goes into the cellar and rapes the woman. Unbeknownst to Chris, Brian sneaks out of his room and spies on him raping the woman. Belle is also aware of what is happening, but through intimidation and violence from Chris, says nothing. Peggy's teacher, Ms. Raton, notices the change in Peggy and surmises that Peggy is pregnant, perhaps carrying her father's baby. The next day, Peggy is sick and stays home from school. Brian is unaware that she is home and sneaks down into the cellar with the woman, pulling off her clothes and torturing her with pliers. Peggy catches her brother and tells her mother who in turn tells Chris when he gets home. When Chris shows no concern, Belle says she is leaving him and taking Peggy and their other daughter, Darlin. Chris responds by knocking her out. Just then, Ms. Raton arrives and tells Chris that she believes Peggy is pregnant. Believing that Ms. Raton is implying that it is his child, Chris attacks her and, along with Brian, drags her out to where they keep their dogs. She is placed in the dog pen and is attacked by another feral girl that Chris had been keeping. Peggy runs to the cellar and free the Woman. What will happen?
Things get intense at Burning Man
The Woman is an ugly mess of a movie. Apparently it is a sequel to Lucky McKee's previous movie, The Offspring, but you'd never know that unless you looked it up. A flashback or 1 minute of dialogue would have made the connection clear and given some helpful background to who the Woman is. Clocking in at about 100 minutes, The Woman is a glacially-paced movie that forgoes entertainment in favor of ham-fisted social commentary that does little to enlighten. The movie tries to go for a feminist bent, but it never fully comes together. The musical choice in the movie is highly questionable with a mixture of rock music I like to call “Jerk Rock”. It's the type of music you hear in shows on The CW, completely inoffensive, but lacking any heart. Why this music is in the movie is beyond me, especially because there are one or two scenes with creepy horror-style synth music. It's not like they didn't know good horror music, they just chose to ignore it.
There are multiple scenes of unintentional comedy that made me legitimately question if the movie was a dark comedy or not. There is barely any horror to speak of and a majority of the movie could be confused for an after-school special. No real action begins until about 15 minutes left in the movie. These last few minutes try to make up for the slow, often times painful, story with an avalanche of violence and gore, but it's just not enough. The inclusion of another feral girl was so random that I could barely process what was happening. The ending was satisfying, if not a little strange and hardly believable. The movie lacks subtlety and plays out pretty much how you would expect, down to Brian turning out like his father (with a Justin Bieber haircut, no less) and Belle finally sticking up for herself. The only exception was the inclusion of the other feral girl, but, again, that came out of left field.
(Sigh) I miss Al Swearengen
The heavy focus of male treatment towards women appears in many horror movies, but does not evoke the same emotion from the audience as other movies. In a movie such as this, the father needs to be far more violent and domineering, two things that are sparsely shown. Similar movies also go for a religious bent to the domineering patriarch character, but The Woman surprisingly avoided that. Perhaps it is unnecessary to the story itself, but it would have made Chris's actions more believable. It doesn't help that Sean Bridgers looks like Will Ferrell and does not come off as a scary individual. It's not a question of his acting ability, because he is able to pull the character off and was great as Johnny in the television series Deadwood. He's just not the right fit as the part is better suited for a hulking, scary man. Someone who looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin would have been far more believable. Angela Bettis is very good as the mousey wife Belle. In my previous review of Sick Girl, I mentioned her voice being incredibly annoying. Thankfully, her voice was normal in this movie, but that makes me question why in the world she spoke with a strange voice in Sick Girl. Lucky McKee has uses a lot of different shots throughout the movie, some good, some bad.
The Woman is a very divisive movie. Some will think that the social commentary is great and that sitting through the majority of a movie with nothing happening is great buildup. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. The social commentary, while important, is not presented in such a way that it would be competent or entertaining. It's important to have social commentary in horror, but it needs to be placed into a movie with a delicate hand and not smashed all over the film like a watermelon in front of Gallagher. The story is incredibly slow with the only action coming at the very end. The acting is good, though Sean Bridgers's frame did not fit the profile necessary to be a scary figure. The Woman was not entertaining and I would not recommend it. Special thanks to Laura for requesting it and I hope it answered any questions you may have had.