A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
Last night’s ferociously visceral horror movie from Netflix: THE WOMAN, directed by Lucky Mckee, from the novel by McKee and Jack Ketchum. It became notorious when a viewer at a film festival stood up in rage and started excoriating the rest of the audience for watching what she termed violent pornography against women — at which point much of the rest of the audience, including a number of women… who liked the film, told her to either walk out and leave the rest of them in peace, or shut the fuck up.
Well, I’ve seen the film now, and must report that it is by no means the most violent horror film I’ve ever seen; it is, in fact, likely less violent than many episodes of THE WALKING DEAD. But it is, as one would expect from Ketchum, deeply confrontational. The premise has to do with what initially looks like an ordinary family, whose Dad discovers a snarling, filthy, dangerously feral woman on a hunting trip. He drags her home, chains her in the cellar, and tells the family that they’re going to “civilize” her. It soon becomes clear that this is NOT an ordinary family; their normalcy is a mask for neighbors, and there are reasons for the wife’s submissiveness, the older daughter’s unnoticed misery, and the older son’s streak of vindictive cruelty.
The movie is more than a series of over-the-top shocks; there’s no shortage of those, but it uses a character-based approach, inviting us to infer the actual backstory from the timid way the wife acts around the husband, and the way the two older children interact with others at school. The horror arises from the next terrible thing happening, but happening naturally — and making retroactive sense even when it enters WTF territory, in its final minutes. The result is merciless, but I would defend it as a work of art. And I reject the accusations from some that it’s just an exercise in empty misogyny. The shallow viewers who thought this movie “glorifies” violence against women buy into the fundamental misunderstanding of fiction, that I cited a number of days ago: that stories are necessarily in favor of everything their characters do, or endorse their behavior as a recipe for a living.