Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #276
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 23, 2011
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Lucky McKee
Screenplay: Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee
Producers: Robert Tonino, Andrew van den Houten
Special Effects: Alan Tuskes, Robert Kurtzman, David Greathouse
Cinematography: Alex Vendler
Score: Sean Spillane
Editing: Zach Passero
Distributors: The Collective, Bloody Disgusting, Salient Media
Stars: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Brandon Gerald Fuller, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand, Carlee Baker, Shyla Molhusen, Chris Krzykowski, Marcia Bennett, Gordon Vincent, Shelby Mailloux, Amanda Daryczyn, Lindsey Hamlett, Lauren Schroeder, Lauren Petre, Michael McKee, Joanna Herrington, Alexa Marcigliano
Suggested Audio Candy:
Sean Spillane Distracted
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You can take it in, feed it, pet it to within an inch of its life, but eventually it’s just going to shit in your kitchen. If it doesn’t wish to be domesticated then it’ll bare its teeth at some point and that’s the sobering message here folks. We all want to believe that we lead a civilized existence and some of us are determined to bring others round to our way of thinking. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills the Whiteman family decided to do the christian thing and take a disheveled bum into their house with the aim of turning his fortunes around and making him fit for society. Well, Keeper’s got news for y’all. The Woman in question here ain’t Nick Nolte and the father of this painfully dysfunctional family unit certainly ain’t Richard Dreyfuss.
To the casual passer-by the Cleeks are no different from any other all-American family. There’s property lawyer Chris (Sean Bridgers), his reserved house wife Belle (Angela Bettis), oldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), son Brian Cleek (Zach Rand) and adorable ankle-biter Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen). Together they paint a fairly idyllic picture of domestic bliss. However, sometimes appearances can be somewhat deceptive to say the least and it doesn’t take long before we come to the conclusion that this particular family are anything but conventional. Dad rules with acidic tongue and, failing that, an iron fist. Mom is desperate to escape his cruel dictatorship, Peggy spends the whole duration suffering from morning sickness after being impregnated with her own father’s seed, Brian is steadily being conditioned into becoming the man of the house should anything ever happen to dad, and little Darlin’ is just totally oblivious as she’s barely old enough to spell her name. The Cleeks are one fucked up family.
Eventually, a paddock full of German Shepherds is no longer sufficient and Chris takes it upon himself to bring in a new addition to the brood to help raise flagging morale. It’s his pet project, a feral woman he finds skulking around at the nearby creek whilst out on a hunting expedition. He takes pity on the heathen, proving such by ensnaring her in an oversized net and dragging her back to the homestead and chaining her up in an outdoor cellar. His intentions are good, at least, they are in his mind which isn’t saying a whole bunch. He plans to tame this beast, cleanse her of her animalistic nature, molest her while his wife and kids slumber, and presumably release her back into captivity when the time is right, enriched by the experience. What a Samaritan. I do hope you spot the sarcasm in my tone at this point as Chris is, in fact, one of the most deplorable characters ever committed to celluloid.
Lucky McKee is a filmmaker we should all be at least vaguely familiar with at this point. His compelling 2002 chiller May propelled him into horror’s major leagues and also starred Bettis, who herself has become something of a scream queen since. The Woman is a direct sequel to producer Andrew van den Houten’s 2009 film Offspring, written by Jack Ketchum who shares screenwriting duties once again. It picks up where that film left off with the titular character returning as the woman of the title. It is not an easy ride by any means and makes for uncomfortable viewing as it focuses on how uncivilized our civilized existence can be. However, should you be able to withstand the atrocities of the first two acts, then you will be rewarded with a potent climax in which the worm turns in spectacularly no-holds barred fashion.
The father figure, menacing portrayed by Bridgers, is culpable of all manner of abuse. His chauvinistic views on the female place in society are apparent from the offset, within the first five minutes we are aware of his choke-hold on his long-suffering wife, Bettis again on commanding form, and his nonchalant approach to abusive parenting. He truly believes he is doing nothing untoward, simply running his household the way that it should be run. Occasional flashes of violence bring his sickness to the forefront although there are a number of more subtle examples of his cruelty littered throughout. His secretary’s role is primarily to retrieve him coffee, a duty which showcases his antiquated view of women in the workplace and the heinous sexual deflowering of his own daughter is only ever implied by certain actions, a correct decision on McKee’s part as there are some things best not revealed.
Our feral woman is once again played by Pollyanna McIntosh, reprising her role from Offspring, and she is utterly absorbing from start to finish. While not able to convey her frustration outside of embittered grunts and moans, her eyes keep us privy to what is transpiring inside her head at all times. They follow Chris and his tainted son Brian around unreservedly, show quiet contempt towards Belle for not acting on her will to escape her tormentor, but soften towards Peggy out of paternal instinct, albeit of a more primal nature. McIntosh is impossible to take our eyes off for a picosecond and her performance utterly spellbinding throughout. This is proven by the fact that we spend the entire duration willing her to be freed from her shackles and justifying her right to exact bloody retribution on her captors.
The Woman supplies further proof that McKee is one of the most gifted filmmakers on the circuit right now. His eclectic musical tastes come to the forefront here and sound design is exemplary, the film is shot beautifully, and the desired impact is made effortlessly through his aptitude behind the camera and with the way that he tells his story. However, enter into this work lightly at your peril as it is raw, uncompromising and distinctly upsetting. It begs the question how civilized are we? While the characters here are overplayed for the sake of cinematic narrative, the message is distressingly clear. The animals are often those on the other end of the leash.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: McKee’s film takes its sweet time getting to the gristle but unleashes in style during a breathless final act. Hell hath no fury like a woman scored, never a truer word spoken on this evidence. I shall divulge no further on this occasion as the vicious acts of the conclusion simply need to be seen to be believed. I will say this, enter with an empty stomach.
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