The Woman (2011)

The Woman is a harrowing, brutal, darkly satirical, encapsulating horror film. Not for the faint-hearted, this disturbing tale is utterly brilliant.

Outwardly the Cleek family seems like the American ideal; successful husband, happy wife, doting son, two intelligent and beautiful daughters. But looks are horribly deceiving; the father is a domineering patriarch, his son a burgeoning sociopath and something is incredibly wrong with one of their dogs…

Whilst out hunting in the Northeast coast of America, Cleek family father and country lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) discovers a savage woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) living in the forest. Deciding to “civilize” her, Cleek captures the woman and chains her in his basement. Enlisting the help of his family, he begins his course on “humanizing” The Woman.

The woman, however, is not a cooperative subject, and the introduction of this wild beast reveals the intricate cracks that lay deep within the Cleek family dynamic, and slowly they begin to twist, shatter and explode…

The Woman is a harrowing movie – darkly comic, difficult-to-watch and stunningly acted by everyone involved – but is definitely not to everyone’s taste. Touching upon themes as dense as rape, child abuse, emotional bullying, domestic violence, pregnancy and even the responsibility of teacher-pupil relationships, The Woman may outwardly appear a very obvious tale of Man versus Woman but – like the Cleek family itself – there is an immense and disturbing depth to this particular story.

This fantastic feature comes from the minds of indie-horror genius Lucky McKee (May, Red) and prolific author Jack Ketchum (Offspring, The Girl Next Door), and their imprint leaves a distinct and fascinating mark on The Woman. McKee’s intricate and sharp character-work combine well with Ketchum’s disturbingly real storytelling, to make a horribly realistic, deeply believable tale of broken family and horror – it touches on the peculiar characterisations of May and the suburban, hidden brutality of The Girl Next Door.

Pollyanna McIntosh gives a brave, visceral and utterly believable performance as The Woman, producing a character from dangerous stares, guttural roars and a disturbing vulnerability that peeks from beneath the veneer of a wild animal. Sean Bridgers gives a faultless performance as the cruel and insane Chris Cleek, who is both charming and sadistic and absolutely convincing.

The entire cast is excellent, and director McKee gets amazing performances from Carlee Baker and Lauren Ashley Carter, along with child-actors Shyla Molhusen and Zach Rand. Rand does especially well as depraved son Brian Cleek, who encapsulates the harrowing results of living in a patriarchal family unit where woman are always inferior.

The Woman is a deeply disturbed, superbly crafted horror film that will have an impact on anyone who watches it. What that impact will be is entirely up to the individual – awe, shock, horror, disgust, anger – as it contains deeply divisive topics delivered in a unique and disquieting style.

Personally I think The Woman is one of the best horror films in the past decade, but it is also one of the toughest to watch. A brilliant, disturbing, oddly amusing and superbly made film. Not for everyone, but undoubtedly excellent.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

One Comment on “The Woman”

  1. Sarah Law says:

    I’m not sure I’d have gnoe as high as 9 out of 10 but I agree that this was an excellent film. And surprisingly feminist too, after all I’d heard about it being so misogynistic. I think a lot of people have trouble differentiating between a film that contains misogynistic characters and one that has a misogynistic message, and this was definitely the former.

    I disagree about the performance by Carlee Baker though, I thought she was awful; the only real weak point amongst the other great acting.

    I’ve been a fan of McKee’s ever since seeing May a decade ago so I’m really excited to see what he does next (providing he stays on this path and avoids making movies like The Woods, even Bruce Campbell couldn’t save that…..)

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