In a small rural town, a family man discovers the last remaining member of a flesh-eating cannibal clan roaming the woods surrounding his home. Thinking he can cultivate this creature, he captures it and introduces her to his family, with the plan of working together to make her a respected member of society – think of Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011) like a horror version of California Man (1992).
The Woman works as a pseudo-sequel to Andrew van den Houten’s 2009 film Offspring (also written by Jack Ketchum who co-wrote this film) and is the third part of Ketchum’s Dead River book series. However, what makes The Woman stand out from other horror movies of late is that the film is completely character-driven. Rather than rely on cheap scares or thrills, McKee and Ketchum’s script survives solely on the performances of its actors which thankfully surpass all expectations (while both Sean Bridgers and Angela Bettis give superb performances, it’s Lauren Ashley Carter who steals the show as troubled pregnant teen Peggy).
The film ultimately lives and dies on the performance of its titular character, ‘The Woman’, played by British actress Pollyanna McIntosh. Fortunately for the filmmakers, McIntosh pulls out all the stops for her breathtakingly believable performance and gives the film the credibility it needs.
In another step away from the horror norm, The Woman actively attempts to tackle the issue of female oppression within a male-dominated world. Despite his calm and cool exterior to the outside world, Chris Cleek (Bridgers) is actually a wife-beating arsehole who abuses all the women in his life to do his bidding. His awful attitude towards women even bridges to his son Brian (Zach Rand), who stoops to his father’s levels with regards to his attitude towards their captive woman. It’s an interesting idea that’s well played out and thought through.
Whilst The Woman is far from perfect, it’s a very credible horror movie – something that is all too lacking in this day and age.