Upon reflection I realize that Lucky McKee’s The Woman can be viewed two very different ways, and that really changes the feel of the film. Either interpretation is astonishing.
The cast is amazing. Maybe these aren’t people that the average moviegoer is familiar with but Sean Bridgers, Pollyanna McIntosh, Lauren Ashley Carter, and Angela Bettis are all people that have done/or are doing some really high-level work if you’ve been paying attention. There isn’t a bad performance in this film.
Bridgers is Chris Cleek is a well-off country lawyer, and one of film’s great monsters. He seems affable, but his family is very strange. While out hunting he finds a nearly nude, injured, feral woman in the woods. He makes the very curious decision to capture her, so that he can domesticate her.
That’s when it all starts to get hellish. Cleek is an abusive monster, sexually preying on his daughter Peggy (Carter) and physically and emotionally abusing his wife (Bettis) and he is hoping that his young teenage son Brian will be just like him. The Woman (McIntosh) becomes a symbol of raw femininity, and ‘taming’ her is just another conquest for him.
But no matter how many times he rapes her or tortures her, the Woman remains wild. Eventually she becomes a symbol of strength for the women in the family especially the youngest daughter Darlin’.
Things escalate, secrets are revealed and finally…FINALLY, the Woman is released and runs on a rampage of sheer brutality that is horror violence done right. Those left living become part of her new family and head out to the woods.
And that’s where this film becomes difficult, because solely in the context of this film, it almost feels like a triumph, even despite the vicious ending. But The Woman is a sequel.
In 2009 The Woman producer Andrew van den Houten directed Offspring where it introduced the Woman and her cannibal family. You see, instead of being an innocent figure she is part of a long-time clan that initiated brutal and cunning ambush murders. One of their favorite ploys in Offspring is beating one of their ownchildren and then sending them into a house to distract family members and penetrate their defenses.
Offspring is a grisly film where the Woman tortures and kills until her family is wiped out in the end. The beginning of the Woman is her recovering from injuries suffered in Offspring. Succinctly put, The Woman is a monster, just a different sort of monster than Chris Cleek.
Her capture and torture becomes karmic instead of symbolic then, as Offspring focused on her capture and brutal torture of others. Instead of being a feminine symbol, her and Chris are merely exchanging a cycle of violence, one that will continue, now that we have context to the end of the Woman.
The Woman works as a stand-alone film and as a sequel and both are a completely different experiences. Not many movies can say that.