Human Centipede 2 is on the tips of everyone’s tongue these days when it comes to movies that obliterate the boundaries of good taste. As a result of that, movies like The Woman, which also present extremely shocking subject manner in disturbing ways, can fall by the way side. It’s only natural. Good or bad, people are going to be more interested, by and large, in the movie making the most noise, and by comparison, Human Centipede 2 has a 200 person strong drum and bugle corps blaring the fortissimo-est of fortissimo version of the Adam West Batman theme, while The Woman has an intimate jazz band playing some classic Coltrane. I need to stop writing metaphors while I think about my musician days.
Before you read on, I implore you: don’t let this movie disappear into nothingness. It is possibly the best horror movie of the year.
Director: Lucky McKee
Release Dates: October 14 (limited)
The Woman is actually a sequel, of sorts, to the 2009 film Offspring. Both films are written by acclaimed horror scribe Jack Ketchum. The titular Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) found herself alone and wounded at the end of Offspring. It is in this state that Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) discovers her. Naturally, his response is to capture her and chain her up in his basement with the intention of “civilizing” her along with the rest of his family. Chris, if you couldn’t guess from his treatment of the Woman, is a misogynistic, ruthless, yet almost calmly abusive man. He has battered his wife Belle (Angela Bettis) into a deep submission, treats his daughters Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) and Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) with casual disdain, and is turning his son Brian (Zach Rand) into just as big of a monster as he is. All of these familiar tensions will come to a head as the Cleeks continue their family project to “civilize” the Woman.
Right off the bat, this is a damn disturbing film. This is a film that centers around some exceptionally horrible abuses, and they are mostly the handiwork of Chris Cleek. Sean Bridgers deserves credit for creating what should go down as one of the most chilling villains of the year. Chris is casually, almost amiably abusive to the women in his family. Even his most pleasant moments are tinged with malice. I applaud this because it shows a side of the abusive husband you don’t get to see much in film and television. It’s not always too much beer and constant battering. Sometimes, it’s just the subtlety of a man grinding his family beneath his heel, and when it’s done as well as it was here, it’s more chilling than any slasher movie.
The rest of the family brings just as much to the table as Bridgers does. Angela Bettis is no stranger to working with Lucky McKee, starring as the title character in his last film May, which is possibly one of the best horror movies ever made. Even in the most pleasant moments, she’s barely containing fear of her husband. Lauren Ashley Carter, as Peggy, brings what begins as a fairly stock sullen teenager role and evolves into a young girl that’s in an impossible situation and unable to cope. The real surprise, though, is Zach Reed’s chilling portrayal of monster-in-training Brian. You watch this boy be manipulated and indoctrinated by his horrible father, and the kid’s motivation is as simple as can be: he doesn’t want to disappoint Dad.
Of course, you can’t talk about a movie called The Woman without referring to said woman. Pollyanna McIntosh says more with a snarl and a growl than most people can in an entire monologue. Her performance is raw and powerful. You get the notion that the Woman is somehow still in control of the situation, even when enduring the worst tortures, just waiting for the opportune moment to strike back against her captors.
This film is getting a lot of flack from people claiming it’s a misogynist hate piece. Couldn’t be further from the truth, really. The entire point of the film deals with the brutalization of women in the household, and how the classical “subservient housewife” gender role is a result of socialization, not some natural predilection. The horrible tortures of the Woman are basically a less-subtle version of what Chris Cleek is already doing to everyone else in his family, slowly revealing his deep hatred of the gentler sex through worse and worse acts against the Woman and his family. When the tables finally, inevitably turn (and if you call that a spoiler, you’re a fucking moron), it’s deeply satisfying.
The film looks good enough. It’s got nothing terribly special going on, in terms of cinematography or design, though I love the work done in the basement where the Woman is kept chained up. That’s mainly because it doesn’t look like a dank torture chamber ripped directly from Hostel or something. It looks like a family’s cellar, and that just makes the fact that it’s got a woman chained up Jesus-style between two pillars that much more disconcerting.
You really don’t get to see a horror movie with as many interesting things to say as The Woman too often. Most of the thematic work you tend to get in horror movies is the usual “SEX AND DRUGS WILL KILLLLLLL YOOOOOOOOU also imma cut out yo eyeballs.” A series of command performances and sharp writing elevates what could have been a crap-grade exploitation concept into one of the most refreshingly-great horror movies I’ve seen recently.
Also, stick around after the credits. There’s not a lead-in for a sequel or a final bit with one of the characters, but there’s something so bizarre that I’d heartily recommend watching it. It’s on par, in terms of weirdness, with the Beat Takeshi Zatoichi remake ending with a massive musical number.
Maxwell Roahrig – Wow. Just…wow. If nihilism made a movie, it would most certainly be The Woman. I haven’t seen a movie this devoid of optimism in a while. But what The Woman shows with it’s shocking content is more than just shocking content. For once, a horror movie has something to say! While you could probably guess from the trailer what director Lucky McKee thinks about most people, I urge you to check it out for yourself. Even if you don’t like horror movies. It’s more of a family drama…with a wild woman chained in their cellar. Fantastic editing, a great soundtrack, and amazing performances make The Woman the best horror film of the year. Hands down. 85 – Spectacular
Matthew Razak – The Woman isn’t a horror movie. It’s a family drama about a seriously abusive and messed up father who just happens to find a feral woman in the woods and decides to train her. Sure the last quarter of the movie turn into a gruesome and disturbing bloodbath, but where the film really shines is the pitch perfect focus on the psychosis of the family as the introduction of “the woman” finally begins to tear down their facade of. The Woman is the kind of horror film that is also a film. Stacked with metaphor, drama and an explosion of guts my only complaint is that there wasn’t more of it. 83 – Great