You either love Lucky McKee’s movies or you haven’t seen Lucky McKee’s movies. That’s a rule I just made up right now. From May to The Woman, today’s Netflix Instant pick, he continues to not only make quality horror movies, but manages to reinvent the genre into a sometimes comedic, but always shocking exploration of the human condition. Yes, I just used the term human condition. I went to college.
Netflix describes the plot of The Woman as: “When hunter and backwoods lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) brings home a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) he found lurking in the woods, he locks her in the shed and orders his family to actively participate in her “civilization”.” While this is mostly accurate, it really doesn’t capture what is really happening. This film spends a lot of its time in the land of allegory, setting up societal roles and expectations with some requisite reversals and introspection. Monsters aren’t always what we expect, actually they are usually the last things we expect. That is what makes them so scary. They are everywhere and hiding among us.
The portion of the movie that was most intriguing to me was the portrayal of the oldest daughter, Peggy, played by Lauren Ashley Carter. She finds herself in a particularly sticky woman specific problem and has two women role models to look to. Her mother, the meek, beaten down to the point of constant agreement type, or “The Woman”, the feral, bite your face off type. This dichotomy leads to a choice that Peggy , as well as the audience, has to make. The feminine equivalent of fight or flight. Is it better to be subservient and accept your expected role, or to fight back by any means necessary and demand your own place? Or is it even an either/or issue? Though there is a resolution to the movie, the answers it provides are not infallible and leave the audience to deal with the aftermath of a complex issue, and, since this is still a horror movie, plenty of displaced body parts.
The movie itself was attacked at its premiere at Sundance and then beyond for being a disgusting example of misogyny in film. That could really only be the case if you take everything on screen literally and ignore that sometimes filmmakers try to say things through allusion and metaphor. Each scene of brutality towards women is not there to reflect the hatred of the filmmaker towards women, it is to point out how badly women are still treated in our misogynistic culture. Through that scope, the film is really a bit of a feminist rally cry, not some depraved woman torture picture.
I realize there is very little criticism to this review, but it’s hard to get too down on a movie that placed #3 on my top 5 of 2011, behind only Drive and Attack the Block. This is one of those rare movies that reminds you that it is possible to have a film that means something beyond its literal scope and can still be entertaining as hell. Revel in it.