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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Woman (2011) Horror

The Woman (2011) - THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT PLOT POINTS IN THE FILM!!! Evil is a word brandished about in the horror genre, to describe any number of things, devil cults, serial killers, demons, vengeful ghosts and Satan himself. Even though there are none of these supernatural elements in the film "The Woman" it is no doubt about evil. It is the evil that man does to his fellow being that is on display here. The evil he persecutes on his family and those you would think a man considered loved ones. The Woman is less about the Woman of the title and more about the man who comes to possess her. It is a film about a particularly evil man and how he imposes his will on those around him.
At he introduction of this man, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) we see him as a mild mannered husband hanging out at a cookout with the neighbors. Still there are some signs that things are not quite what they seem. Director Lucky McKee makes a point to show him standing on a porch high enough that he can scan the yard. High enough to see his family, to know who they are interacting with. We also get a look into his families reaction to him. The teenaged daughter Peggy ( Lauren Ashley Carter) is caution in even seeming to talk to a boy who is showing interest. She looks over her shoulder knowing her father is watching. When he sees his son shooting free throws at a basketball hoop his interaction is not one of encouragement but more of pressuring the son to practice towards perfection. Later at home he is established as the controlling douche bag he is. So we think we have an idea of who he is but evil? That will be confirmed as this film continues.
   When we first see The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) she is wounded and stumbling to a stream to wash her wound. We see this montage like fever dream that may be letting us know her origin as a woman raised by wolves. She is definitely feral with what looks like the remains of a tent for clothing. It is a stylish introduction that is nonverbal but effective.  It may have been that she had a baby that was taken by wolves and that is why she kills one. It was a bit confusing but the ending leads to believing that there is a motherhood hole she needs to fill.
  A couple days after this she is spied by the hunting Chris Cleek as she washes herself in the stream. Her breasts exposed or at least in Chris's imagination they are he gets an idea that will change the world he has created. The music in this scene is a bit too on the nose as he watches her walk away. Still it forecasts the coming events.
 He captures the woman and takes her back to his root cellar where he strings her up a shackled captive. This does not make her helpless as he learns when he lets his hand get a bit too close to her. In a wonderfully performed scene we see that The Woman has some power in this relationship that has been forced upon her. It is a real stark reality for Chris to meet a woman he can't dominate. He has the upper hand, well at least most of it, but he will never truly control this woman.
There is a dynamic in this film that is perfectly structured. The women who are part of civilized society are dominated by the men. Chris over his wife and daughters, his taking advantage, financially of a neighbor who comes to him in business, the boys teasing a little girl at the cookout. We have society's nurture relationships of all showing the dominance of men over women. Chris is the front man in this, a misogynist prick who rules with an iron fist and only sees women as weaker beings to be used and abused as he sees fit. He represents the male perception of superiority in society. The Woman is nature, the wild woman, the being who without societies molds is as potent and powerful as any man. She represents what women are without the structures of society imposed on them.
 No one in his family will challenge him they are all too afraid. It is not just that he must have dominance there is also a sexual element to Chris that creeps into the way he looks at the woman. Like the imagining of her breasts as she washed in the stream. You can tell he is not really thinking about how to civilize this woman. He is a much sicker man than originally thought and every revelation makes the audience wonder how far can it go. Sure the proper foreshadowing of his deviance was in place early in the film but when we get to the middle of the film we realize he is a truly evil person. Lucky McKee does a fine job in presenting this family as well rounded but lets the audience see the cracks that run through its foundations. When he brings his entire family into the cellar and shows them the Woman he talks about how they owe it to her to civilize her. There is no questioning of him in this scene, no one says maybe they should call the cops. Everyone in the room who is old enough to understand knew he intention with the woman was to a a fuck toy and not to help her in any way. In fact in the privacy of the bedroom his mouse wife Belle, excellently played by Angela Bettis, asks the simple question "Should we really be doing this?" His response of hitting her hard across the face without a word is all you need to know about his absolute power in this family. This is such a complex set of circumstances for this character. Rewatching the scene where he is checking in with his older daughter is sooo much more creepy when you realize that he has imprgnated her. The way his wife hovers behind him obviously nervous for her.
 When we see Chris go out in the night to use The Woman's strung up body, while is wife lays awake knowing where he is. While The Woman sheds a single tear during her rape. It is a horrible thing that Belle is letting her husband do what he wants to the woman. She also knows though that by doing so she is also protecting her family, if his abuse is focused on the stranger in the cellar than it is not focused on the family members. 
  Adding to the disturbing look at this fucked up family is how the father seems to be grooming his son Brian (Zach Rand) to be a misogynist as well. We see the boy who is acting out like his father and instead of a firm hand the father makes it clear in his belittling of the women in the family that a mans place is the dominant one and the boy will stand at his right hand in running the family. When Brian takes a turn at abusing the bound Woman and is caught things really come to a head in the family. With all the abused and craziness that Belle has been subject to the straw that gets her to stand up is that her son may become like his father. She confronts the boy and then his father saying that the behavior is sick. Finally confronting him does not really work out as she planned and as her unconscious body lays on the kitchen floor the doorbell rings. Peggy's Teacher, Genevieve Raton (Carlee Baker) arrives right at this moment to reveal her suspicions that Peggy is pregnant and offer her help.It is also an interesting choice to have the attractive possibly lesbian teacher be the only proactive woman in the society that we see.
  These final scenes where Chris goes over the edge and attacks the teacher are incredibly harsh. He obvious can't come back from this and as an audience member who cares if he does. The women in their desperation to help Raton finally get to fighting back. In the gory and violent ending we finally get to see the Woman respond to male aggression with arms free. We learn just want was meant when the word "anophthalmia" was bantered about earlier in the film. We see the oppressive male structure not be able to handle to wild nature of the Woman in what was a very satisfying ending. This was never intended to be a feel good movie so if you are looking for truly happy endings this is not the film for you. Nor is it the film for those who hate to see violence towards women. It does treat its characters honestly and they behave to the character traits they were given no matter how disturbing that is to the viewer. The acting is excellent from Pollyanna McIntosh, the Woman to Belle Cleek, Angela Bettis and the wonderfully evil Chris Cleek, Sean Bridgers. The music somewhat counter intuitive in its upbeat score during really horrific scenes was interesting although this seems to be a fad in horror. I am also not a big fan of music montage to move things along and there are a few in this film. It is not that they are poorly done, just a personal preference. Still the gurgles of gore where present and the mood was set throughout with a score that added and did not take away from what was happening on screen. The revelations we well drawn out in a script that revealed just enough to keep you thinking as you watched. I am not sure how much was added by the last revelation of the daughter with no eyes living with the dogs. Having worked in mental health many years ago I did know of one case where a child was made to sleep with the dogs in a pen. In fact I met some people who did equally horrible things to their families. So for this viewer at least Chris Cleek was just another sick bastard and I enjoyed his final scene. I just wish it had been longer and more painful. So with that let me say I strongly recommend this movie but with a bit of a warning.
This is an extremely disturbing film and it will not be for everyone. It is a story about a character who has a complete disdain for women and the scenes and revelations showing how poor a human being he is are disgusting and hard to watch. So if you do not think you are able to deal with it avoid the film. Otherwise have at it.
Rating (7.5) 5.0 and up are recommended, some just more recommended than others.

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