The Woman

Year: 2011
Production Co: Modernciné
Director: Lucky McKee
Writer: Lucky McKee
Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Angela Bettis, Zach Rand, Shya Molhusen

If, like me, you saw the trailer for this movie and thought it was just some sort of adventure story about somebody who finds and captures a woman living in the wild who's never known human contact, you're in for a surprise.

The woman of the title (Pollyanna Macintosh) is merely the fulcrum on which the story of a very dysfunctional family balances. Family patriarch Chris (Sean Bridgers) looks like a low rent Will Ferrell but he's a monster, and Bridges brings a sense of menace and threat to him that really catches you off guard.

He's a rural lawyer living with his wife and three kids way out in the country where he occasionally likes to hunt. It's on one of these trips that he sees the woman – filthy, dressed in rags and living in an apparently primeval state (based on real urban legends about a clan of wild people who roam the forests of the US Pacific Northeast, or so I read).

Chris captures the woman and brings her home, recruiting his family into helping him lock her in the storm cellar with an elaborate wire and pulley system that holds her completely prone, intending to clean and civilise her.

Chris's wife (Angela Bettis) is meek and compliant, his oldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) skittish, her huge eyes darting everywhere in fear when he's around, cutting school and wearing baggy clothes she's trying to hide in. His son (Zach Rand) is the least scared of everyone – although he still feels his father's air of icy threat – and the youngest daughter Darlin' (Shyla Molhusen) is too young to really notice anything wrong.

Though never explained, it's strongly suggested Chris has been raping Peggy – and that might be only one of the methods of holding a reign of terror over his family.

The tension and satire (of the Cleeks as a parody of a typical American nuclear family) both grow until they're almost unbearable, upon which time a teacher who's concerned about Peggy visits the house and makes everything – from Chris to the situation – explode.

Things turn monstrous faster than you expect and it all unleashes a twist that seems to further cement just what a villainous character Chris has been.

I've read a lot of comments online about how The Woman has strong feminist themes, but aside from the fact that the woman of the title fights back (nobody in the family attempts to get their revenge on their husband or father), I can't really understand why.

It turns surprisingly gory in a very short time after a slow-burn build-up and there's some inventive camerawork that adds to the sense of madness and claustrophobia of living in the grip of danger. Other than that I just found it a very weird slasher.

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