Ginger Nuts of Horror
One of the things that has been fascinating about Film Gutter is the number of movies it has enabled me to come back to. Some of these – such as A Serbian Film – don't quite do themselves justice a second time around. Others – like Excision – are as much of a pleasure to rewatch as they were to watch initially. And on that I had certainly been looking forward to coming back to was The Woman, which I remember making a distinct impact on me first time around. So let's dive back into this one, shall we?...
One of the things that has been fascinating about Film Gutter is the number of movies it has enabled me to come back to. Some of these – such as A Serbian Film – don't quite do themselves justice a second time around. Others – like Excision – are as much of a pleasure to rewatch as they were to watch initially. And on that I had certainly been looking forward to coming back to was The Woman, which I remember making a distinct impact on me first time around. So let's dive back into this one, shall we?
The story follows the Cleek family, who on the surface seem happy but there is no doubt a deep dysfunction running there. The head of the household, Chris, is mysogynistic, a trait he seems to have unfortunately passed on to teenage son Brian. Wife Bell is very much pinned down and subservient, but has a sort of fragility to her that suggests she could explode at any moment. Throw into the mix a teenage daughter, Peggy, who is sullen and withdrawn due to (as we discover later on) her pregnancy. How the youngest daughter, Darlin' gets by remain something of a mystery – she's barely seen in the family scenario. This is very much a home where the men are men, and rule the roost.
But far worse is to come, as a further combustible element is about to be throw into the mix. When out hunting. Chris stumbles upon 'The Woman', the wild cannibal that we met in the loose prequel, Offspring. Instead of killing her, Chris tranquilises her and drags her back to their barn, ties her up and thereafter sets upon a quest to domesticate the neo-animal he has discovered. Belle accepts this meekly and unhappily, Peggy is fascinated in her own way (there are hints throughout at her attraction to women, particularly her teacher) and Brian is also very drawn to his new female in his life. The Woman is furious at being captured, attacking Chris when he tries to wash her before he douses her in boiling water and then cleans her with a power hose.
Of course, significantly worse is yet to come, as Chris proceeds to rape The Woman – which she accepts without fighting back – while Brian watches on through a crack in the wall. It's not long until Brian makes his own assault on her, but he is caught by Peggy, who is incandescent with rage. Chris's response is remarkably blasé, and almost the perfect epitome of the movie's message – 'Boys will be boys' – and it's from here that things start to go very much south.
I don't want to give away too much of the movie's ending, suffice to say that it is both shocking and explosive – a finale that left me absolutely breathless. It's a movie experience that will stay with you in a different but every bit as effective way as Offspring, which was brutal from start to finish. The Woman is cringing and uncomfortable from the outset, and one of those movies that you simply know cannot end well, a promise that it amply delivers on. The acting is effective in each case – Pollyanna McIntosh's reprisal of her role as The Woman is again brilliantly wild and animalistic, dad Chris is depicted wonderfully as cheery on the surface but with a vast, dark undercurrent beneath and Angela Bettis – for me a very underrated actress – is ideal as the timid, uneasy Belle.
But there's also a serious message here about gender relations, which is delivered in a phenomenally powerful way here. The insertion of The Woman into this hugely patriarchal family – an unfettered, wild and powerful spirit – breaks the unhealthy status quo that has developed and the simmering resentments and furies well and truly boil to the surface. Even the grimmest guess of how this one ends might not live up to the reality...
RATING: 10/10. Blistering, brilliant and brutal, The Woman is everything that horror could – and for me should be – it has a powerful message, strong performances, unsettling and uneasy scenes throughout. This is a movie that is a challenging watch, but a hugely rewarding one – well among my favourite horror films, and every bit as a good the second time around. This one can only get full marks from me.
Click here for our exclusive interview with Pollyanna McIntosh the star of The Woman
Come on in, the water's revolting...
Film Gutter Volume 1 is the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from Ginger Nuts of Horror's popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made. With over 50 movie reviews plus interviews with directors and actors including Tom Six, Dieter Laser, Matthew A Brown Jimmy Weber and Phil Stevens. Film Gutter Volume 1 also takes in a host of exclusive content, including the much-requested 'most disturbing movies' list!
Purchase a copy here