Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Woman: All the good you heard is lies

Today, after much to-do, The Woman finally makes its way to Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and digital, courtesy of Bloody Disgusting Selects. Well, in America anyway. If you live in the UK or Ireland, you may have seen this one sitting on the shelves in Tesco for a few weeks already, albeit with inferior cover art. Is this the bees-knees that Bloody Disgusting have touted it as, or is it another B-grade straight-to-DVD release?

The Woman centres around a family in the American countryside whose successful lawyer father/leader hunts and captures a wild woman he finds in the forests. He declares it a family project to recivilise her, by chaining her up in the work-shed and trying to force modern ways (dress, proper eating) onto her. The father is well known and liked in the community, but beats his wife, with an underlying tension rippling throughout the family to his son (who seems to be following in daddy's footsteps), teenage daughter (who is hiding a big secret and just wants to get away from the dirty ways of her family), and youngest daughter, who doesn't really understand anything odd is happening. They try and keep the woman chained in their work-shed a secret from the outside world, which becomes harder and harder, when she physically marks the husband, and the daughter's (potentially lesbian) teacher gets nosy at her change in demeanor at school.

A simple but effective plot, really. Family find savage. Family try to civilise savage. Who is real savage? Badda bing, badda boom. Effective film. BUT... The Woman decides it would prefer to examine less obvious avenues, with far more inept results.

Let's go with the good first. The effects are good, and the scenes that do focus on the woman in the work-shed are easily the crux of the film. The final ten minutes of the film are also quite effective (going the only way a quasi-exploitation flick can go; all out chaos). Unfortunately, the filmmakers don't focus enough on the woman, instead following the individual members of the family and their psychological trauma. At first glance, that should be a good thing, but the characters here, the father and son in particular, start off as crazy as Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and never diverge from crazy. I get that the father is supposed to be respected in the community and it's a typical abusive relationship between him and his wife, but I just couldn't buy it. There are glimmers where the wife has a Stockholm Syndrome moment,  bringing some intrigue to her character, but these moments are fleeting and in the end, totally dismissed.

The only person's story I felt any way emotionally interested in was the daughter, but even then, a lot of that is built in the outside world (in school), taking us away from the elephant in the room (or woman locked in the basement), always being a poor choice for the film. There is a nice pay off towards the end, with a few twists that had me going 'huh. That's kind of clever', though the draw down after the climax is ridiculous, unbelievable, and betray the films drive. 

It is a middle of the road production in terms of performance, and I was never able to not think of the woman as an actress playing a savage. I'm not sure what she could have done to aid this, but perhaps too few a fleeting moments with her, adding in the low budget of the film (I assume), never gave her a full chance to spread her wings with the performance. 

The filmmakers utilise an overabundance of cross-fades, particularly in the opening montage, almost as if the film is preparing to be an airy art-piece. Really, it ends up feeling cheap, overused and distracting. The visual of the film as a whole is a resounding 'meh'. Everything feels very flat. The film could have had a great visual arc of Blue Velvet perfect living slowly descending in to gritty Texas Chain Saw Massacre as the ants are revealed under the surface, but alas, everything is a constant composed pop of colour. I will give exception to a moment in the final sequence, which, owing to the rest of the film's reluctance to be edgy, stands out like a sore thumb as an echo of what might have been. 

All in all, The Woman should have taken more Hills Have Eyes and less of the generic horror film pill. Worth buying only if it's in the bargain bin.

NOW, onto a bit of a bone of contention I have surrounding the release.

I have a huge amount of time and respect for the horror site Bloody Disgusting, and will put it out there that they are one of the best horror sites today, but they have their own distribution label, Bloody Disgusting Selects, which they acquired The Woman with. That's cool. No problem there. Getting films out to the masses is difficult, and these guys are saints in their own right for aiding the cause. BUT, their end of year lists were dominated with The Woman as the best film of the year. And that, folks, is misleading.

Like I say, they are a site to typically trust and feel a part of, but they shamelessly used their clout to promote their purchase. They had a great campaign where fans helped design the cover art, they talked about the film, getting people amped up for it. That was enough. What they should not have done was go out and say The Woman was one of the best films of the year. It was not. By a long-shot. And the writer who did that even made a point that it wasn't because Bloody Disgusting was distributing the film.


They tried to rig the election (which I do think tainted my view of the film a bit). I'm all for self-promotion and pushing what you got, but not when it interferes with the morals and integrity of what you have built. I have found myself feeling distanced from the site, but I know, like a scorned lover, I will call them back, seeing if we can work things out, find the common ground and move on. I just hope that this is a once off thing. 

Sites like Bloody Disgusting should be the safe-haven for the horror fan. If I wanted to read fluff pieces, I'd buy Fangoria.