The Woman, 2011.
Directed by Lucky Mckee.
Starring Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand, Shyla Molhusen.
A lawyer and family man captures a feral woman and chains her up in his cellar hoping to tame and civilize her, but the task proves more difficult than he anticipated.
The Woman is certainly an interesting film, and was under a fair bit of discussion after its screening at FrightFest concerning its attitudes towards women. It opens with a woman, covered in dirt, who clearly resides in her surroundings – a forest. It’s not made apparent in the film, but she is in fact one of the last surviving members of a tribe. She hears an animal in distress, finds it, and kills it. She’s a relentless savage it would seem.
After a bit of a confusing montage which combines lots of footage of the woman running about a bit, then standing over a baby being nursed by a wolf (yeah, I was a bit confused too), the screen fades to black, and transitions to what I assume is the modern day. We see a girl, automatically determined as an outcast, and we’re quickly introduced to her family through the means of a neighbourhood party. All of them seem a little off but none more so than the father.
Played by Sean Bridgers, the father character, Chris Gleek, is certainly an interesting one. It doesn’t take us long to discover that he is a dark person, a dictator who orders his family around beyond the authoritative manner. He is a bizarre overlord who seems to get kicks from wearing the trousers and asserting his power over the family – in particular his meek and rather pathetic wife.
Mr Gleek is the first family member to encounter the savage woman whilst hunting in the woods. He leers over her, watching her clean herself in a river through the scope of his gun. It’s not long before he catches her and has her imprisoned in the family cellar. He is extraordinarily open with the family, and expects their support rather than asking for it. Sean Bridgers does an absolutely phenomenal job with the part, being utterly believable in his characters questionable morals.
It is clear after watching The Woman that it is easy to read into the film as being lathered in misogyny. From the very nature of the woman being trapped in a basement and at one point, literally used as a sex object, to the way that Mr Gleek is so conditioned to feeling it is acceptable to hit not only his wife, but any woman. He enslaves women, and it’s clear as the film develops just how much he despises them. This darkness is gradually leaked as the plot unravels – you know it’s there, you know he’s a wrong ‘un, but The Woman revels in building up to the point where the very extremity of his behaviour unfolds.
Credit must be given to the other characters in the film. The whole family do an excellent job at portraying a sense of instilled fear towards the father, but a particularly interesting character is the youngest daughter Darlin’. As a young child she has only a fraction of understanding over the ‘real world’, and her naivety is a fascinating addition to the strange family dynamic. She is sent to her room if arguments break out, and is led to believe that the imprisonment of the woman is nothing out of the ordinary. She is at an age where she trusts anyone, and anything. The woman herself, played by actress Pollyanna McIntosh, is also done very well, with some human qualities, but some very animalistic ones too.
The music used in The Woman seems unconventional, it seems more fitting in a teen drama a la The O.C., but surprisingly it works very well. It helps us explore the individual characters basic emotions, and really aids, and often contrasts the visuals laid before us.
Despite the controversial misogynistic overtones of the film, The Woman is a fascinating look at an extreme opinion of women, perhaps a bite back at feminists – but more likely an attempt to gauge a reaction. In terms of the film as a horror, it uses tension very well and doesn’t cop out on cheap scares. It’s very psychological, and ultimately a thrilling watch as it makes you think – like all cinema should. It is debatable however whether the films intention is to make you react strongly to the attitudes towards women in the film as ‘disgusting’ and ‘vile’, or to the actual film making skill itself, which is actually rather impressive. There is a little lack of clarity to some elements of the plot here, which avoids pushing the film from an average horror, to something to watch again.