Deadlier Than The Male
Directed by Lucky McKee
Revolver Entertainment Region 2
Warning: This’ll probably have some slight spoilers in it, I imagine.
Okay... so Lucky McKee’s movie The Woman is one of those films which comes along every now and again and, frankly, no matter how good or bad these movies are... the public reaction to these ones often just leaves me bemused.
Before I go into what I thought of this movie, I should probably warn you that 1) I haven’t seen a lot of Mr. McKee’s work, which is something I’ll try to remedy because, 2) the two things I have seen him do, The Masters Of Horror episode Sick Girl and the movie May (both with the excellent Angela Bettis who plays the mother in this movie) have each been excellent pieces of work, well worth watching.
The other thing you need to know about me before you read this review is that I wasn’t even aware that it is a kind of sequel to another movie also written by Jack Ketchum (who co-wrote the screenplay to this with McKee) called Offspring. Apparently, that movie explains where The Woman, who is the subject of this movie, came from.
So I’ll have to start off my review to this a little differently now that I know (and I wasn’t aware of this at the time I was watching) that The Woman is not a wild woman brought up by wolves or some such... but the last survivor of a clan of cannibals who were the subject of Offspring (a movie which I now have to try and get ahold of... I hate finding out a movie I watch is actually a “hidden” sequel to another... would rather watch these things in the right order).
Anyway, this fierce survivor who hunts and kills in a forest is “captured” by the misogynistic, bullying and generally obnoxious husband and father of a son and two daughters... and put in an underground room to train up to be civilised... which is a thinly veiled excuse for the husband wanting to have his wicked way with the feral young lady (which he does).
The film is not so much a movie about the title character, in all honesty, but about the general limits the various female members of this guy’s family can be pushed to before they finally lose their ability to cope with such inhuman behaviour (which, to be fair, they’ve tragically self-enabled by not standing up for themselves in the past... although this doesn’t, of course, excuse such behaviour to begin with) and take a stand. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove at the end of the film and Angela Bettis’ character of the mother is in the process of doing this, her past actions... or actually it would be more appropriate to say her past inactions... make her as much of a potential threat/victim to the eyes of the one person who can do anything about all this as her husband and son are. Since I was really rooting for this character, then, I must admit to being a tad disappointed that she wasn’t better treated by the title character.. although, it’s also true, that one can see why not and it certainly was nothing less than I was expecting.
Now then, as I said, the public reaction of shock and outrage that seemed to be “all the rage” when this film was playing the festival circuits last year is something which I do find surprising, if not downright perplexing, to say the least. I was expecting the film to be something a lot more stronger than it actually was and, while I’m sure the writers and writer/director are very satisfied with the knee jerk response it’s caused... I don’t really think it’s warranted in this case. The goriness of the film, for example, is really not all that shocking and certainly not a million miles away from something you might catch in an Indiana Jones film (people who have seen both this movie and Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom will know exactly what I’m referring to here) and at its best it’s more impressionistic and poetic via the editing than you would see in lesser films in this genre... although I’m not entirely sure what genre of movie this is, to be honest with you. I wouldn’t call it a horror movie (which is what I was expecting from this director due to the small amount of his stuff I’ve seen before)... maybe an addendum to the cannibal craze of the 70s and 80s perhaps?
One thing’s for sure though... it’s a very well put together little movie which has some astonishingly, cleanly framed and achingly beautiful photography which, coupled with some excellent performances from pretty much all the cast, make for a very watchable and perhaps even compelling movie, well worth giving up some of your time for.
And as for that general outcry... there’s some amazing footage of an actor who got so riled up by watching this that he seriously and deliberately disrupted a screening at Sundance Film Festival (you can’t pay for publicity like that)... I’m thinking now that perhaps the general outcry was due more to the fact of the uncompromising attitude of the male characters in the film (especially the husband) as it’s maybe been a while since we’ve seen such an unsympathetic portrayal of this kind of “know your place” attitude on screen. What people have got to realise, I guess, is that this is just, you know, a fiction... you’re allowed to explore these grizzly edges in art. If you start to turn away from horrible people like this guy in the arts, where this has no real consequence to the many female victims of domestic violence throughout the world, and get reminded how terrible it is... then how long before that kind of unacceptable behaviour becomes even more rampant in real life? People do need to be on their guard and watch for these crimes against basic humanity in the real world out there. So it’s not really acceptable to react in shock to this movie... which is actually a big movie about female empowerment (and therefore should be promoted and cherished more)... when hidden crimes like this are being committed in “real life land” every day. And if you do find the subject matter unpalatable... just remind yourself that these are just actors and it’s only a movie, for goodness sake.
When all is said and done, The Woman is a wonderful parable about suffering women overcoming the constraints of their mental prisons (yeah, I’m not talking about the title character here now, obviously) and finding a way of overcoming their antagonists, in this case by freeing the blunt instrument of The Woman to mete out the violent and vengeful justice they are not strong enough to deliver themselves... it’s a film with a very uncompromising moral centre, and I don’t really see how that deserved all of the negative press it seemed to get on its short release.
Personally, this movie isn’t completely my cup of tea, but I do recognise a brilliant artist in the director (it’s a really well shot and gorgeous looking movie folks) and any film that is this good on a technical level and which has characters you can care for and which delivers such a strong message of “girl power” is more than alright in my book. Definitely a recommendation if this kind of movie is of a genre (or sub genre) that you particularly like to see. Give it a go and definitely check out the director’s Sick Girl and May if you get the chance.
Oh. One last thing before I go... stay past the end credits to this movie if you want to see something creative, baffling and surreal.