BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WOMAN / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LUCKY MCKEE / SCREENPLAY: JACK KETCHUM, LUCKY MCKEE / STARRING: POLLYANNA MCINTOSH, LAUREN ASHLEY CARTER, SEAN BRIDGERS, ANGELA BETTIS, ZACH RAND / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (STEELBOOK FROM ZAVVI.COM), DVD/BLU-RAY AUGUST 25TH
Re-released as the first physical venture by VOD company THE HORRORSHOW.TV, The Woman was a smash on the horror festival circuit, but perhaps didn't reach its potential with the mainstream, so now is the perfect chance to take another look at the film and put that right.
The film opens as an almost direct continuation of Offspring (2009) - also based on Jack Ketchum's novel - with wild, feral 'woman' (McIntosh - reprising her Offspring character), injured but still living rough in a cave in the woods. We then meet a well-to-do, typical, wholesome, all-American family: well-groomed parents, two daughters, and a son. The son, Brian (Rand) is encouraged to practise his basketball skills, while the daughters appear largely ignored, with the eldest, Peggy (Carter) is becoming more isolated at school, leading her teacher to think she's pregnant. The wife, Belle (Bettis) keeps a clean house but is reticent to entertain the family friends. Father, Chris (Bridgers) is a successful lawyer, whose main hobby is hunting.
During one of his hunting trips, he discovers the feral woman bathing in a stream. Voyeuristically watching her through his gun sight, this wild woman fascinates him. After getting the family to pitch in to clean and sort the storm basement, he heads back and captures the woman. Chaining her to the wall, he learns the hard way that she is not friendly, as she bites the top off one of his fingers. Introducing the family to their new 'pet', he tells them he will tame her and domesticate her. When Belle questions the ethics of keeping the woman like that, Chris slaps her face in an unflinchingly violent manner. This one act is as, if not more, shocking than anything else in the film is and underlines the fact that the monster here is not 'the woman'. In his controlling ways and misogyny, he is pure evil and before too long, we are praying for him to get his just deserts. The tragedy, and reality as is often the case in these circumstances, is that his son is a chip off the old block. When the violence and gore begin - and there's plenty of it - it is so sickening and brutal that it's almost unbearable.
This is the type family drama played out in many households all over the world that no one ever hears about. Only they don't have a wild woman in the cellar waiting to rip your insides out and eat them. This is one of the most provocative, shocking, unrelenting, but pro-feminist films made in recent years. It's perhaps just a shame the viewers need a strong stomach to get through it. The whole cast are brilliant, Carter proving to be a star in the making (which she demonstrated again in Jugface/The Pit), McIntosh is terrifying as the unfortunate captive, and Bridgers even more so as the patriarch hiding a secret side.
This re-release is all the sweeter by the addition of a pair of audio commentaries. These tracks are often only interesting to avid film fans, but in actuality, both of the ones presented here provide a fascinating and entertaining accompaniment to the main course. The first, from director McKee is a brilliant insight behind the scenes. His is an amiable raconteur, and is as absorbing as the film is. Critic and former FearNet writer Scott Weinberg provides the second. Clearly a fan of both McKee and The Woman, Weinberg's commentary perhaps provides a little more understanding for the layman. It compliments McKee's track well, by adding that external perspective. Also on the disc are several of the extras found on the earlier release, with an excellent 'Making of' being a standout.
It's not a film that could be recommended as enjoyable viewing, but it's incredibly well made, and the fact it doesn't just go for the easy cliché of 'family in jeopardy from wild beast' is refreshing.