THE WOMAN **** USA 2011 Dir: Lucky McKee 103 mins
Conceived as the third entry in the Jack Ketchum trilogy instigated by “The Off Season”, THE WOMAN riffs on the familiar modern American horror theme of the savage that lurks in the heart of all of us, while depicting the objectification of an initially helpless, captured woman, much like the powerful Ketchum-inspired indie horror film DEADGIRL.
Arrogant, gun-happy jerk Sean Bridgers brings home a wild woman (Pollyanna McIntosh), showing her the suburban hospitality of chaining her to a wall in the family cellar and treating her as a pet in a deluded mission to free her of “her baser instincts”. Discomforting black humour characteristic of Ketchum’s work creeps in, alternating with his distinctive brand of upsetting physical horror, as the impressionable adolescent son frequents the cellar to grope and horrifically abuse “The Woman” while Dad merely scoffs, at one of the grimmest points, “Boys will be boys”. Director McKee’s muse, Angela Bettis, is typically excellent as the loathsome Bridgers’ subservient housewife, and McIntosh is astonishingly good as the allegedly “uncivilized” character who discovers that “civilization” involves being treated like a dog and suffering frequent violations. It builds to a suitably harrowing bloodbath climax, with excellent FX work by Robert Kurtzman and a merciless explosion of carnage in which characters both odious and sympathetic perish in equally unpleasant ways. The best Ketchum movie since THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, with which it has thematic parallels.