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'The Woman' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

'The Woman' movie poster.
© Bloody Disgusting Selects
The sequel to Offspring, the 2009 adaptation of the Jack Ketchum book that was featured in the Ghost House Underground series, The Woman was written by Ketchum and director Lucky McKee as both a novel and a movie. What a novel approach! Hahahahaaa! Ahem, let's proceed, shall we?

The Plot

The story for The Woman picks up shortly after the end of Offspring, with the newly clan-less feral cannibal woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) licking her wounds, roaming through the wilderness in search of a new home. She takes up residence in a small wolf burrow but barely has time to settle in before she's spotted by a hunter. (Funny how she's found so quickly when the entire clan apparently spent generations wandering around without being discovered...but I digress.)

The hunter turns out to be local lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers), a jovial, seemingly upstanding citizen who lives in an isolated country home with his wife Belle (Angela Bettis), teen daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), pubescent son Brian (Zach Rand) and kindergartener Darlin' (Shyla Molhusen). Outwardly a pillar of the community, Chris harbors a dark side that emerges when he decides not to report the wild woman's presence to the authorities; instead, he captures her and chains her up in his cellar.

Chris explains to his family that it's their duty to "civilize" the woman. They bathe her, put her in a dress, feed her something other than human body parts and try to teach her to speak. But Chris's hospitality is less than civilized itself; his "bath" comes courtesy of a pressure washer, he keeps his captive hanging upright in chains and he subjects her to all manner of abuse. His demand for discipline and domineering demeanor has scared his family into compliance, but in riling up what amounts to be a wild beast, he may have met his match with his new sadistic endeavor.

The End Result

Angela Bettis and Sean Bridgers in 'The Woman'.

Angela Bettis and Sean Bridgers in 'The Woman'.

Photo: Chelsea Boothe © Modern Woman LLC
While you don't need to have watched Offspring to understand or appreciate The Woman, the sequel does present an intriguing role reversal from the original film that deepens its character study and strengthens the potency of its social commentary. The hunter becomes the hunted, the antagonist becomes the (cautiously) sympathetic protagonist, the captor becomes the captive. In Offspring, people from the "civilized" modern world are brought into the cannibals' primitive realm, while in The Woman, the savage is dragged from its natural state into a civilization that turns out to be less civilized than the primitive world.

Although it's been decried by some as misogynistic, it's not hard to read a strain of feminism throughout The Woman's treatment of gender roles. The "civilization" of the woman entails an attempt by a man to shoehorn her into the traditional female roles and behaviors as defined by society: a passive, mannered, well dressed sexual object. If anything, you could argue the movie is more anti-man than anti-woman (Frankly, I don't think it's either.), as all of the men in it come off as lowbrow sleazeballs. The concept is a lot like the controversial Deadgirl and falls in line with Jack Ketchum's penchant for exploring the dark side of humanity (see also The Girl Next Door, The Lost and Red).

The Woman earned its own share of notoriety early in 2011 when a Sundance Film Festival audience member (who obviously hasn't seen many horror movies) was captured on camera balking at its content, but it's actually not necessarily any more disturbing than Offspring, which likewise included an unnerving blend of gore and sexual violence, but added baby murder to boot.

Those of you who enjoyed the cannibal carnage of Offspring might be disappointed to find much less of that sort of thing in The Woman. For long stretches that focus on the family rather than the woman in the cellar, you may even forget that it's a sequel. Its terror is more psychological in nature and despite the disturbing content, Lucky McKee is actually quite restrained in what he shows on screen. Still, the slow boil does pay off fore gore hounds at the end, and while The Woman isn't McKee's best effort to date -- it lacks the drama of Red and the cultish appeal of May -- it's a solid addition to his often overlooked body of genre work.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B (Bridgers oozes evil.)
  • Direction: B- (Somewhat restrained, given the content, with a quirky touch of humor.)
  • Script: C+ (Thought-provoking, if a bit heavy-handed.)
  • Gore/Effects: B- (Not much until the end.)
  • Overall: B- (Provocative and intriguingly insightful but not for everyone.)

The Woman is directed by Lucky McKee and is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, torture, a rape, disturbing behavior, some graphic nudity and language. Release date: October 14, 2011.

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