“That is not civilised behaviour!”
The Woman is a 2011 American horror film directed by Lucky McKee, adapted by McKee and Jack Ketchum from Ketchum’s novel of the same name.
The movie opens with a nameless, rugged, feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) circling what appears as her child. A wolf, apparently tamed by the feral Woman, circles the infant as well but does it no harm. Although it is not fully explained, the Woman is the last remaining member of a human cannibalistic native american tribe that has roamed the north-east coast for decades (as seen in the 2009 film Offspring).
Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a country lawyer who is shown at a local BBQ with his family. The family enjoys BBQ while the oldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) sits off to the side clearly detached and upset. Their only son Brian Cleek (Zach Rand) watches as three or four boys violate and push a small girl into a corner. He stands up seemingly to come to her aid, but instead shoots a basketball. As they leave, Chris asks his son how it was to which Brian replies that he shot 9 out of 10 baskets. There is no mention of the girl or anything else.
Later that night while out hunting, Chris happens upon the Woman who is bathing in a nearby stream. He watches her, leaves, and returns later with a net in an effort to capture her. He manages to trap the Woman in the net and knocks her out. Chris returns home with her, restrains her in the storm cellar next to the house. He directs his family to participate in “civilizing” her.
The next day at school with the Woman in the cellar, the kids begin to show their true personalities. Brian is bested by a girl while playing basketball. So later in class, he maliciously puts gum in her brush. She unsuspectingly brushes her hair. He offers aid, but hurts her as he brushes. He appears to enjoy watching her scream in pain.
Peggy is withdrawn at school, detached, and often seen wearing very baggy clothes. Her teacher begins to think she is pregnant and approaches her. Peggy does her best to avoid the topic and returns home.
Chris’ first attempt to approach the woman results in her biting off and swallowing the end of his ring finger. She spits his wedding ring out into a pool of blood beneath her feet. Nonetheless, Chris’ will prevails. What follows is an increasingly violent series of civilizing measures, orchestrated by Chris.
After a series of dehumanizing events veiled as civilizing the Woman, Chris sneaks out of bed and rapes her while his son Brian secretly observes. The next day, Brian assaults the woman by pulling and stabbing her nipple with a pair of pliers and is caught by his sister, Peggy. She tells her mother who reports the incident to Chris. Chris laughs off the attack as typical “adolescent urges”.
This is enough to push his abused and complacent wife, Belle, over the edge and she announces she’s leaving with the daughters, but not their “rapist son”. Chris suddenly reacts violently as he knocks Belle unconscious while Peggy watches with horror. Brian naturally shows no emotion to his father’s abuse towards women. Just then, Peggy’s teacher Ms. Raton (Carlee Baker) rings the doorbell. Ms. Raton, suspicious about Peggy’s recent depression and baggy clothes, tells Chris that she believes Peggy is pregnant.
What will Chris do next? Can the madness be stopped or will things take an even more sinister turn?
The Woman is a very graphic horror movie, the epitome of what horror is and truly disturbing in nature. What is most disturbing about The Woman is how grounded in reality it is, and how the plot has the potential to happen in real life. Although, I found the very end to be a little bit too much.
The villain in this story isn’t a ghost or a demon, but simply an abused family and their depraved father. Chris was a real bastard to the end; that you loved to hate until he becomes even more despicable. He’s very convincing in such a sociopathic role. The Woman has great acting overall from all the cast, except the teacher who seemed out of place. Pollyanna McIntosh as The Woman was incredible in every way, she acted perfectly and looked amazing.
The score feels tonally off but I feel it was intentionally so due to the disturbing nature of the film.
Overall, a disturbing journey of real life horror that disgusts you in every way to your core. One that no matter how good, you wouldn’t want to watch twice.