Read more FrightFest 2011 Review: The Woman

by Ben Bussey

Within a suprisingly short distance of one another exist what would appear to be two polar opposites of human life. The Cleek family live an affluent and comfortable existence in their beautiful ranch home, whilst in the woods nearby a feral woman (McIntosh) exists day-by-day as a scavenger. Out hunting one morning, family patriach Chris Cleek (Bridgers) finds the woman in his sights and decides to take her home. He captures her, chains her up in the fruit cellar, and informs his family that it is their duty to teach this woman how to be civilised. Whether Chris Cleek is in any position to demonstrate the real nature of a civilised human being is, of course, another matter entirely.    At the time of its announcement, I felt very conflicted about The Woman. On the one hand it was a collaboration between Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, and involved Angela Bettis: this was a cause for great personal excitement, given that I regard Ketchum far and away the greatest horror novelist of our time – indeed, one of the great American writers full stop – and that McKee and Bettis’s May is one of my absolute favourite films of this century. On the other hand, this is ostensibly a follow-up to Offspring, Andrew van den Houten’s somewhat lacklustre screen adaption of what is easily Ketchum’s weakest novel. The idea of McKee and Ketchum working together on a story about wild cannibal people did not sit well, given that both artists seem at their best when dealing with very real human concerns in a realistic context. Happily (well, perhaps that isn’t the word I should be using), The Woman is certainly not just a cannibal movie. Nor should it really be regarded a sequel to van den Houten’s film; aside from the presence of Pollyanna McIntosh in the same role, this is very much a stand-alone film requiring no prior knowledge of Ketchum’s Off Season/Offspring universe (which is presumably why the title was shortened from Offspring: The Woman as originally planned). With distinct echoes of McKee and Ketchum’s respective masterworks, the aforementioned May and The Girl Next Door, this is an intensely atmospheric, intelligent, character-based tale of abuse, intimidation and inhumanity. Read the rest of this review here.

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