Friday, May 11, 2012

my thoughts on.... 'The Woman' (2011)

It's been really hard for me to write reviews lately and I'm not quite sure why. I have had so many movies and films that I've seen recently, that I just can't keep up with them all. Every time I add a new movie to the list, I just get frustrated.... because I know I won't get around to reviewing it right away. But even though I see all these movies, there is a part of me that feels like I don't see enough movies. Odd, right? I currently have a rental queue on Netflix of about 500 movies and an Instant queue of about 500 movies. That's about 1000 individual and unique movies to watch, if you're keeping count. I don't double up on any of them. If they're on Instant, then the come out of the rental queue. What I've always known, is that I'll never, in my lifetime, see them all. In the meantime, while I try, I'll write about as many as I can. And hopefully, you'll check back every once in a while and not just give up on me because I don't update as often as I should or could. That being said, let me tell you about something I just saw two times in one week....

'The Woman'. What can I say about this film? It took me on a roller coaster ride and it has been plaguing me day and night to write something about it. I even watched it a second time, to try and get it out of my system. So often, a movie never pays off. Especially when it's built up beyond belief by good or bad press. There is such a thing as 'too much hype' and I very often will avoid a film until that hype has died down or gone away completely. I hate to be influenced by someone else's judgement. Sadly, 'The Woman' has been the victim of excessive negative press. Unjustly so, in my opinion. However, there is some nuggets of truth to what they have written about this film, but a lot of it is taken out of context or is only based on a partial viewing. At its initial screening, people walked out because they were so horrified. Why, you ask? The most common complaint about this film is that it's misogynistic. This is true. There are some pretty horrific things that happen to 'The Woman' and the other women in the film. What is often left out of that commentary is what happens at the end of 'The Woman'. *SPOILER?* All of the terrible atrocities are responded too.... with swift and final justice. Let's back up for a minute, shall we?

'The Woman' was written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. It is a sequel to two other books written by Ketchum titled 'Off Season' and 'Offspring'. All three books tell the ongoing story of a clan of cannibals that roam modern day. A tribe out of time, so to speak. There was already one movie made in the series, 'Offspring'. I've seen it and was not impressed. I think it was the biggest reason I avoided 'The Woman' when it was released. Negative press has never stopped me from seeing something, nor has the threat of excessive violence or disturbing images. I take art at face value. Anyway, 'Offspring' was bland at best and didn't do much to expand the horror genre. The book may be something different entirely, but I haven't read it. Therefore, I can't make a comment on it. I don't recommend seeing 'Offspring', other than to see Pollyanna McIntosh's original performance as 'The Woman'. It will also make this sequel make more sense and give her more depth. I've included the trailer here, so you can get an idea about it. Watch it below:

As you can see, it just doesn't do much. It feels like another re-telling of 'The Hills Have Eyes', but in suburbia. I honestly found it quite forgettable.

Now that you have that back story, we can move forward. 'The Woman takes place shortly after the end of 'Offspring'. Her tribe has been pretty much wiped out and she is all that's left. She is injured (see the first film for the reason why), she's in unfamiliar territory and she's being hunted. A man named Chris Cleek is hot on her trail and has "redemption" on his mind. He builds a contraption at his home to contain 'The Woman' and brings his family in to help. At first, they have no idea what he has in mind.... but once he brings 'The Woman' home, they're all in it together. Chris attempts to 'civilize' her, by his own methods. She in turn, bites off one of his fingers and eats it. After this, he basically treats her like a rabid animal who just needs some time, care and discipline to re-enter into the world. That's what he tells his wife and kids. However, from the first time we meet Chris, we realize that he has darker intentions, for himself and his family. At this point, we start think that maybe the film isn't so much about 'The Woman':

But that it's really more about the Cleek family themselves:

That is where the real genius of this film lies. It uses this wild and untamed 'Woman' as a metaphor for this truly dysfunctional family unit. We're lead to believe that she is a monster for her cannibalistic ways, but it's quite the opposite. Don't get me wrong, she's a very bad lady.... but some of the other things going on are far worse. I think that's why this movie hit so many people in the stomach. They didn't know what to expect and perhaps, they saw themselves in the mirror for the first time. No one in this movie is totally innocent, it's all just varying degrees of guilt. But can you really fault the kids and 'The Woman' for being they way they are? They were just raised to be that way. It's almost a form of satire in the way it's presented to the viewer. Who are we supposed to root for? Is there a hero? I think that may be another reason people disliked this film so much. You are given blow after blow to the head and just when it can't get any worse.... it does. Even the teacher, who tries to help, is presented as not being a "good guy". Jack Ketchum is known for his dark and twisted tales and this film was no exception. It's a morality tale of some sort or at least that's how I saw it.

I have a feeling that there are a lot of you that are going to see this film and think I'm insane for my overly analytical take on 'The Woman'. I have a feeling that I'll get some pretty harsh reactions to my feelings on it. That doesn't change the way that I feel about it or what it means to me. Any film that I see twice in the first week I've ever seen it, means that it left an impression. 'The Woman' is one of those films.

Back to the story line.... As Chris and his family continue their mission to save 'The Woman' from herself, things get messier and messier. I don't want to give away everything that happens, but it feels like a ball of yarn that begins to unravel. It keeps going and going, until the center can no longer hold and everything just collapses. That's where the film really goes for the jugular. The final scene starts out simple enough, but builds like a majestic symphony. You know things are going to go from bad to worse, but it's not just going to all explode at once.... the directory, Lucky McKee, wants you to feel every moment of it. I literally was on the edge of my seat for the entire third act of this film. I had no clue exactly what was going to happen, but I didn't want to know. I wanted to take the ride that I'd paid for and relish every minute of it.

When it was over and the dust had cleared, I wondered if anyone else would get it. Would anyone else walk away from that experience feeling as satisfied as I did? I know I'm not the only one that enjoyed this film. But I never know if anyone else I know will feel the same way I do. Honestly, I have the feeling that a lot of you are going to be split on the last 10 minutes of the film. The way that it all ends up is up for debate. Why do the characters do what they do and what happens next? To me, it ended exactly as it should have. But reading others thoughts online, tell a different story. That's something that remains to be seen and only you can make up your mind on that.

Everyone in this film was committed to it, that was obvious. Lucky McKee is best known for his film 'May', but he has done several other things that are noteworthy and I highly recommend you check out his other works. Of course, fans of his, will know that his favorite "muse" to work with is Angela Bettis. She plays Belle Cleek, the wife who does what she's told.... but is just as responsible for the terrible things going on as anyone else. She never speaks up and for that, she's just as guilty as Chris. Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role as 'The Woman' from 'Offspring' and takes it to new and grittier heights. She seems to have been intent on creating something that would leave an impression on the viewer and would make them want to see more of her. She achieves that goal 100% and gives the performance of a lifetime. It's honestly scary to watch her on screen, which is a far cry from her first attempt at the role. Zach Rand plays Brian Cleek, the protegee of Chris and his middle child. He, perhaps, has the darkest character arc in the film. You always can tell that Chris is not a good guy, but Brian is a bit more vague. Speaking of Chris, he's played excellently by Sean Bridgers. A man you've seen before, but you just can't quite place where. I don't know who did the casting in this film, but he was born to play this role and embodies the character so much that you physically hate him every time he is on the screen. Lauren Ashley Carter plays Peggy Cleek and she is quite possibly the closest thing we have to a heroine. She is not without fault, however. Finally, Shyla Molhusen plays Darlin' Cleek. The youngest of the family, but you can already tell she has a dark side looming. You really have to see them all together as a unit to understand everything I've just typed. They work as a family and are so believable that it makes the story that much more dark and twisted.

All in all, this is a film that deserves a bigger audience and I'm glad that Netflix has taken it upon themselves to make it available OnDemand for all to see. I highly recommend that you add it to your queue and watch it tonight. The only thing I ask is that you check your preconceived notions at the door. Come into this with a fresh mind and with the desire to see something slightly askew. I, obviously, can't say enough good things about it and am quickly becoming the very reviewer that I mentioned at the beginning. The kind that sways you in either a positive or negative way and ends up altering your perception on the film. I don't mean to affect your judgement one way or the other and if I have.... wait to see the film until that has all gone away. This is a 4 out of 5 star film that is already being prepped to be added to my collection of films. I really want to see any special features on the DVD release. I want to find out more about it and why it was made. What inspired Lucky and Jack to collaborate and to bring back 'The Woman'? Why they cast the film the way they did? And why was the music presented the way it was? That is actually something I haven't touched on yet, the soundtrack.

All of the music is done by the indie musician, Sean Spillane. It feels out of place and strange at first, but once you get used to it.... it all makes perfect sense. The tone, the style and the lyrics. I've read several reviews that specifically point out the music as one of the reasons they hated this film. It feels odd at first, like some kind of indie romantic comedy. That just adds another layer to the film that makes it unique and gives it a voice unlike other films. I suppose it's just one more thing you have to see and hear to understand.

I've said enough. I'm done. If you like this film, check out some other Ketchum based films: 'The Girl Next Door', 'The Lost' and 'Offspring'

One final thing, remember "Anophthalmia". You'll understand once you've seen this film.

Here's the trailer, so you can make up your own mind on if you want to see this or not:

One more poster for your viewing pleasure:

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