Lucky McKee’s new horror The Woman is 2011’s very own I Spit on Your Grave for fuelling post-viewing debate and controversy. It is a love-hate piece of film-making designed to revolt, but also to allow us to reflect. To describe it as a “look into the darkness of human nature” gives it a purpose and an excuse for exercising some of the most raw and depraved acts seen in a long time. What it does deliver though is the much desired shock tactic, just when the genre feels like it has little else to stoop to and horrify us with.
Controlling family man Chris discovers a feral woman living wild in the woods and decides to capture her and civilise her ways with the help of his long-suffering family. Holding her prisoner in his home grounds, Chris finds the task more difficult than first thought, and his family’s fascination and well-intentioned compassion soon turns to sadistic cruelty.
McKee uses the feral nature of the Woman, defiantly played by Pollyanna McIntosh, as a mirror to reflect our own deepest, darkest instincts, which we keep intact through our belief in a legal system and our ingrained civilities that separate us from animals. What’s terrifying to witness in this film is how Chris, a lawyer, and others in authority like him, become so consumed with power that it corrupts them and their judgment. McKee’s story is an extreme analysis of this, and it’s said that abusive people start with cruelty to animals – the animal in this case is a human. The cruellest living mammal is human, too, it seems.
The subjects of rape, incest, brutality, domestic violence and murder are all dealt with, without much compromise or redemption. McKee aims to paint the disturbing truth of our psyche, and even has a slight dig at America’s religious bigotry – another man-appointed belief system designed to contain us. Chris uses the excuse of God to justify his actions – like a latter-day Crusader. Sean Bridgers is repulsively apt in the role, never allowing us to empathise with Chris, even at the start. His son, Brian (Zach Rand), copies his father, and these scenes are horrifying alone, but with a lot of youngsters being conditioned in war-torn areas around the world, his actions are never acceptable, but are better understood.
However, it is McKee’s female characters that strike the biggest punch and raise the greatest controversy. Whether they are powerless at first like Chris’s whimpering wife figure, Belle (Angela Bettis), McKee has set their fate without much room for improvement. Therefore, our initial sympathy ebbs away, whether intentional or not. Those who are tainted remain so, and there’s only one female who triumphs in the end, but she suffers for her defining moment. Revenge on the male captors also doesn’t feel adequate enough, considering their actions, and leaves you feeling wholly unsatisfied and without full justice served. Hence, the parallels McKee depicts to the animal kingdom are striking in this film, with the weak paying the price: It’s like watching a human nature study at times, once you get past the appalling violence – some shown, some not to fuel your imagination.
McKee not only succeeds in taking us to the most depraved depths of the human soul but also makes no apologies as the context is any one of us can relate at a certain level, anyone who has ever harboured an unnatural or barbaric thought. It’s this trigger of unease, coupled with the film’s bloody actions that make The Woman one of the most affective and most intense horrors seen in recently.
**WATCH THE TRAILER HERE