As a precursor to Broadway Cinema’s annual Mayhem Film Festival, last night marked the screening of Lucky McKee’s The Woman, a horror movie that follows the escalating events put into motion when Christopher Cleek (Sean Bridgers), a successful lawyer and calmly violent patriarch, ensnares the eponymous Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) from her feral life, and attempts to “civilize” her.
Simultaneously released with the book of the film, The Woman was written in tandem by McKee and Jack Ketchum (The Girl Next Door, Red). McKee and Ketchum are no strangers to one another; McKee directed the 2008 film Red, which was based on the Ketchum novel of the same name. Since the latter is described by Stephen King as the “scariest guy in America” and with the former’s 2002 horror film May acquiring a cult following, it is no surprise that The Woman has already won Best International Feature Film and the Audience Award for Best Film at the Festival Européen du Film Fantastique de Strasbourg.
Everything about this movie has a slightly ominous tinge to it, from the picturesque New England farm where the Cleek’s live (think Little House on the Prairie with an air of of Ed Gein) to the contrasting, fairly upbeat, indie soundtrack overlaying the violence harboured in this film. These portentous tones lend themselves to the underlying truths inherent in the Cleek family. On that note, it is worth pointing out that the violence depicted throughout is very well done; McKee manages to show less and insinuate more. Without showing too much for the majority of the movie, it manages to build up supremely to the climactic ending, and, in my opinion, avoids an all too common problem some horror movies have of “violence for violence’s sake”. Whilst this movie is absolutely not for the squeamish, at least the violence appears to have a reason behind it!
Pollyanna McIntosh gives a performance reminiscent of Holly Hunter in The Piano, managing to say so much more without the use of words (although her feral growling is enough to make your throat sore simply from hearing it). Her almost supernatural stare and presence manages to bring out the true natures of the Cleek family, whether it be evil, or the good inherent in them.
The Woman is definitely something to be seen by those with a penchant for horror, and whilst this movie does cover the well-worn question of “who truly needs civilizing?”, it does so by providing an interesting descent into the ever-so-startling world of the Cleek family, and would not be out of place next to the 1970’s works of Wes Craven. Unfortunately this is a movie which is fairly hard to find in the cinemas, but is well worth watching if you can.