MARCH 25 » 9:30p


2011, USA, 74 min.
Director: Lucky McKee Screenwriter: Lucky McKee, Jack Ketchum
Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand

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The Woman, feral and fierce, roams the remote forest, alone but free. Nearby, the Cleek family resides in an idyllic nuclear sovereignty, miles from their closest neighbors. On the surface they appear as genial as a Rockwell painting, but below their tense façade bubbles a force that’s anything but natural. On a hunting trip, Cleek patriarch Chris spies the primitively enticing Woman and is immediately inspired; like a cold, more misogynistic Henry Higgins, he resolves to capture and civilize her, a conceit that strikes him powerfully in both the mind and pants. And, he plans to make her taming a family affair.

So begins this horrific new twist on the old Pygmalion tale, set in a microcosm reminiscent of Omelas. Horror auteur, Lucky McKee, brings us his latest study in human cruelty, The Woman, co-written with the legendary Jack Ketchum. Controversially received at Sundance, this is a film that will divide audiences along undiscerning lines. Touted by critics as needless torture-porn-du-jour, this is certainly not light fare. There is a lot of vicious, female-directed brutality depicted. However, to write this film off as anything but a scathing, feminist, thought-provoking criticism of that which it portrays is entirely missing its point. This is no slasher’s romp in the woods. This is the exploration of no-frills monstrosity; a psychopathic man and the havoc he wreaks on both his imprisoned charge and his equally imprisoned family.

The viewer is simultaneously trapped, indicted, and cautioned with brutality redolent of Michael Haneke. We’re consenting witnesses, implored to shout enough is enough and intervene as we watch from our perch beyond the fourth wall. We’re shown the deadly consequences of our, and the Cleek family’s, complicit silence through the unfolding of this dark tale. We’re even given a glimpse of well-intentioned intervention gone horribly awry. After a shocking conclusion we’re sent home to sit with these considerations. But at least we’re free, which is the first feeling you will relish when the theater lights go back up.

— Nicole McConvery