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The Woman (2011)

Director: Lucky Mckee
Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Carlee Baker, Alexa Marcigliano, Zach Rand, Shyla Mulhosen
Certificate: 18
Running time:  104 minutes
DVD Release date: 17 October 2011

The Woman, a collaboration between director Lucky McKee (May, The Woods) and author Jack Ketchum (The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Offspring), is the sequel to Offspring. The very fact that there is a sequel to such a brutal, squeamish film is a fantastic testament to the strength of independent film-making in this day and age. It is doubtful that a major studio would have had the cojones to actually fund a project like this so be thankful for the team-up of two horror visionaries.

Lawyer and husband, Chris Cleek (Bridgers), rules his family with a ruthless iron fist. On one of his private hunting excursions in the local woods, he discovers a feral woman (McIntosh, reprising her role from Offspring) bathing in the stream. He decides to capture and civilise her, taking her back to the isolated family abode, where he chains her up and tries to teach her about human interaction. He enlists the assistance of his whole family, wife Belle (Bettis), their two teenage children, Peggy (Carter) and Brian (Rand) and even their youngest daughter, Darlin’ (Molhusen).

The arrival of their human pet project acts as a catalyst and starts to reveal cracks in the family unit, exposing the façades that are constantly bubbling below the surface. Secrets that have been buried deep by the family members begin to emerge and their public pretence quickly unravels. Each individual reacts and makes their true feelings known, either via their actions or by exposing their innermost thoughts. It is frightening to see the ideal American domestic dream collapse in such a short period of time as the true horrors of man that lurk under the skin become clear. An argument with Belle sees Chris explode and set in motion a final chain of events that sees the futures of everyone involved ripped apart as they individually succumb to their base desires and reactions. This sees titular woman finally released and, intent on retribution, on a bloody killing spree that sees some characters get their comeuppance. An explosion of gore would not be an overbearing description of the final scenes.

The final shot is almost poetic and leaves the door open for a sequel, which for most horror franchises is a possibility that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. However, the opportunity to revisit this world and follow the continuing adventures of the woman is one that should be welcomed.

Considering the two creators are both male, it is refreshing to find a tale that is genuinely empowering to females whilst highlighting how evil men can be. Even Brian comes across as a hateful and spiteful character that automatically repels you, a major feat from such a young actor.

If you haven’t already read the book, but are familiar with Ketchum’s other works, imagine a cross between The Girl Next Door and Offspring and you’ve got an idea of the events that unfold. Brutally strong and unnerving in equal measure, The Woman is a film that will stick in your brain long after the credits have rolled.

JD GILLAM

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