Sunday, October 23, 2011

A dark original worth experiencing: Lucky McKee's and Jack Ketchum's THE WOMAN

I've seen Pollyanna McIntosh in several movies (Sex and Death 101, Land of the Lost, Burke and Hare, and Exam) but only really noticed her in the latter film. Anyone lucky enough to see this actress in the current THE WOMAN will not soon forget her. Ms McIntosh, good as she is and given the vagaries of the acting profession, will be lucky to ever essay a movie role this memorable again. It's staggering, and she gives it her all -- despite (maybe because of) being severely limited in the dialog department. Written by Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum, based on their novel and directed by Mr. McKee, the movie is a broadside -- but a damned convincing one -- about the male prerogative gone utterly and irresolutely bonkers.

Mr McKee, shown at right -- who earlier gave us the excellent Brian Cox film Red, the odd and creepily endearing May, and the interesting but not entirely successful The Woods -- has now given us an original and probable cult classic that, if I'm right, will easily stand the test of time. (He's used his May leading lady, Angela Bettis, in the mother role here, and Ms Bettis has lost none of her creepy charm.) Mainly, though, McKee and Ketchum have created a modern mythic title character likely to haunt the dreams of men (she's sexual and scary in equal measure) while creating the kind of female heroine that mere money (read Hollywood blockbuster stuff) could never buy.

No: This woman, above, is a creation of pure talent (the filmmakers' and Ms McIntosh's) and part wild-but-on-target reading of the zeitgeist -- past, present and most probably (given the male-of-the-species' slow-learning process) future.

The primary male in this film is played -- and very well -- by Sean Bridgers (above), an actor who works a lot, mostly in TV and cable and therefore has been little seen by TM. I'll certainly remember him from this movie. From the film's initial scene, male behavior, of both father and son (below -- an impressive debut from Zach Rand) is off-base and worrisome. We only slowly learn just how unhealthy these guys are, and one of the real beauties of the film is that, by the time they get their comeuppance, viewers will be able to handle it surprisingly well, despite, hmmm, you'll see....

Because the film, pre-credit, begins in a kind of over-the-top manner, you would imagine that we would be ready for just about anything. Yet the finale takes us places that still manage to shock -- particularly with the introduction of a character that, given what we know, is a surprise that makes perfect sense. (Also, the actress that plays her -- I believe it's Alexa Marcigliano -- does an amazing job of something I don't recall ever seeing a woman do on screen.)

Ms Bettis, shown at left, is excellent, as usual, and so are the two girls who play her offsrping: Lauren Ashley Carter as the fraught older daughter and Shyla Molhusen as the younger (and aptly-named) Darlin'.

The Woman has cult film written all over it, but unlike some of the movies that make it to that status, it will, I suspect, deservedly retain its reputation in the years to come. It delivers on every front -- from design to execution, theme to characterization, and yes, horror hounds, in the blood, guts and gore departments, too.

Being shown theatrically as part of the late-night series at AMC theaters presented by together with The Collective, this film is definitely the best thing in the series so far. Click here for screening dates and times, and watch for VOD and/or streaming possibilities -- plus an eventual DVD release, as well.

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