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When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to "civilize" the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy.
For more about The Woman and the The Woman Blu-ray release, see the The Woman Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 1.0 out of 5.
Starring: Carlee Baker, Shana Barry, Marcia Bennett, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Pollyanna McIntosh
Director: Lucky McKee
» See full cast & crew
The Woman Blu-ray Review
This features a woman in red, but it's not the color of her dress.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 24, 2012
What does it say about us as a species that there's such a thing as torture porn? What does it say that this unabashedly violent, usually completely disgusting genre (at least to some of us) manages to rake in sizable box office returns and seems to do especially well on home video releases? (Could it be people are actually a little ashamed to be watching this stuff, and so prefer to see it in the privacy of their own homes?) The sociological implications are troubling, to say the least, but they're beyond the ken of this reviewer. It frankly just baffles me that people would ever want to see people degraded, disemboweled, sliced, diced and manhandled to the point of being little more than bloody pulps. But there is obviously is a sizable fanbase for this content, and many of them will probably love The Woman. There have been a number of films which have attempted to couch their torture porn roots in highfalutin' concepts, like the recent A Serbian Film. But The Woman doesn't even have that film's (questionable) level of pretentiousness. This is a film all about misogyny which attempts to counteract its first 9/10ths by delivering a supposed comeuppance in its climactic showdown that does little to balance the scales, other than spraying both sides with about equal amounts of guts and gore. With a frankly ridiculous narrative style which dances just this side of self-parody (which would have been a better choice, all things considered) and one completely disturbing and disgusting sequence after another, there's little here other than shock value, and even that shock value doesn't offer any real shock other than that engendered by disgust.
The Woman could almost—almost—be seen as flirting with satire, a la Married With Children, as it introduces a Cleaver- esque family headed by attorney Chris (Sean Bridgers), properly submissive wife Belle (Angela Bettis), randy son Brian (Zach Rand), troubled teen daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), and sweet kid Darlin' (Shyla Molhusen). All is not picture perfect, however, and Chris fears he's losing his all-important control over his supposed charges. That all changes when he stumbles across a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) while hunting one day, captures her, and drags her home, chaining her up in his barn as a "prize" he wants to share with his brood. (In the somewhat comical department, writer-director Lucky McKee pronounced 'feral' as "fear all" in the making of documentary accompanying the feature on this Blu-ray, perhaps indicative of the intellectual acumen of the "creative" team behind this travesty.)
As distasteful as The Woman undeniably is, there are actually a few sparks of saving grace scattered here and there, if one is prone to look hard enough for them. Director McKee actually has some visual flair and directorial craft at his beck and call, with a number of really well staged scenes on display throughout the film. But it's craft ill suited for this smarmy and unseemly content, pretty window dressing surrounding a rotting corpse, as I mentioned in another recent review for similarly gussied up trash. What really could have ultimately saved this film would have been more of its occasional sense of humor about itself. After Chris' finger is bitten off by the feral woman, he exacts revenge in a typically gruesome manner, after which he calmly asserts, "There, I feel better about my finger now." If only The Woman had had the courage to pursue those black comedic elements to their furthest potential there might have been more to recommend about this piece.
It must also be admitted that at least a couple of times in this fairly gory enterprise McKee actually errs on the side of caution, deciding not to actually show some violence which is only alluded to. Therefore a really disturbing scene with Brian, some needle nosed pliers and the feral woman actually manages to deliver some real chills, simply by dint of the fact that it isn't incredibly graphic. As any seasoned horror director will tell you (at least any old school seasoned horror director), it's often best not to show everything you have the ability to, for the audience's imagination will certainly make things scarier and more horrific than outright depiction ever could. Unfortunately McKee falls into the trap of so many young horror directors by wanting all that blood and guts up on the screen, virtually dripping into the audience's lap.
By the time the film cartwheels into its hyperbolic denouement, when one of Peggy's teachers shows up at the farm about a possible pregnancy scare involving the teen (could Chris be involved?), the movie just descends into pure silliness, albeit (of course) completely gruesome silliness. It's rare these days for labels or PR firms to send "swag" with their releases, but The Collective sent along a little "bonus" item with The Woman, a little rubber heart covered with fake blood inscribed with "She'll rip your heart out," a major clue to one of the film's bloodier moments. The fact is, for a lot of people not especially fond of this kind of film, they may want to rip their own hearts out (or at least their eyes) so they don't have to watch something as downright trashy and disgusting as The Woman.
The Woman Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Woman is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of The Collective-Vivendi with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Whatever you may thing about The Woman (and it's probably pretty obvious by this point that I don't think much about it), few would quibble with the image quality here, which despite the film's many dimly lit sequences has a rather unexpectedly high amount of shadow detail and fine detail. The film was shot digitally and doesn't quite have the depth that traditionally shot features do, and it has also been tweaked at the DI stage, as so often is the case these days, with some odd filtering effects. Despite all of this, the image is very sharp almost all of the time (aside from when it has been intentionally blurred, as in screencap 18 included with this review). Close-ups reveal a wealth of fine detail, and despite some very minor crush in the very darkest scenes, overall black levels and contrast are quite stable.
The Woman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Similarly, The Woman's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix far outshines the actual content of the film, delivering a fairly raucous mix that features a wealth of immersion, especially in the up close and personal sequences with the chained feral woman, where grunts, straining chains and various other sounds of torment and violence explode across the soundfield. The film features really wide dynamic range, from some actually kind of quiet sylvan moments, both in the woods and the family farm, as well as relatively quieter dialogue scenes as well, in addition to the more sonically active violent sequences. Fidelity is top notch throughout the presentation, which includes perhaps a bit too much Southern Gothic folk rock for some tastes. For the record, there's also a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track included on the Blu-ray.
The Woman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Woman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As should no doubt be obvious by now, The Woman is most definitely not my cup of tea. I know this kind of out there horror flick appeals to many, but I'm simply not one of them. I actually might have liked (or at least tolerated) this film if it had simply gone totally over the top and delivered some laughs along the way, as it at least tries to once or twice. All of this said, it can't be denied that McKee has a fair amount of craft, and a lot of the scenes here are staged with some visceral flash and flair. The film was subject to a supposed mass walkout at Sundance which some have alleged was staged simply to further the PR for the film, but there's little doubt that a lot of people aren't going to have the stomach for something this patently distasteful. If you are one of those folks who likes this kind of material, the presentation here is well above average and shouldn't leave you anything major to complain about. For all others, stay far, far away.
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