Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Woman

Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Woman - 2011, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

A twisted family goes even more over the edge when Dad brings home a feral female in this shocker that comes off as an odd mix of "My Fair Lady" with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
This one has a surreal opening as we witness a crazed woman, clad in animal skins, running though the woods. We never get to see what has scared her and that becomes more important as we realize she is tougher than an over cooked steak. She observes a wolf's lair and quietly enters before killing the beast and taking over the nest.
Next we are thrust into a suburban barbecue and it is a little off putting. This is as normal as the movie gets so enjoy it. This backyard feast introduces us to the Cleeks. Dad is a lawyer while Belle is a stay at home mom charged with looking after their three children. Dad is a slow talking gentleman but don't let that fool you. He has simply laid down the law with his family and they are all under his thumb to the extent that they don't question him when he gives out orders.
Dad spots the wild woman while hunting. He returns home and orders his people to clean out the family shed and they do it without question. They do have some queries when dad introduces them to the ferocious female he has imprisoned in their out building. Turns out that dad aims to make this creature a family project. Everyone gets to help take care of her but he warns them that she is a bit violent .He takes advantage of this moment to show that he lost a finger to her when he was first chaining her up. She chewed and swallowed the digit after spitting out the ring.
This development throws the family into a mild tizzy. The news is almost good for teen sister Peggy as it takes attention away from her undisclosed pregnancy. Adolescent brother Brian is downright excited to have a half naked savage about, and it brings his increasingly cruel nature to the surface, while their battered mom shrugs and accepts everything like a victim that is almost glad to see someone else take the abuse that is routinely sent her way.
Things come to a boil as this latest addition to the family brings out depraved behavior in the men while slowly building up strength in the women. Pretty soon mom is questioning dad's judgment while Brian begins showing signs that he is on the road to cold brutality that his dad has paved with his tyranny. It all explodes when a well meaning teacher choose the absolute worst moment to make a house call. The ensuing finale gets a gory upgrade as the woman in the shed break free while an even creepier secret shuffles out of the barn where these creep chain and mistreat their dogs. This is not a finish you should watch unless your stomach is extra strong or, at least, empty.
This is hair-raising stuff and it comes to DVD from the festival circuit where it sent several critics fleeing from the theatre. This reputation is well earned, as this is the first American film to have this effect on viewers in decades. This is all thanks to Lucky McKee (who co-wrote and directed) and novelist Jack Ketchum (who wrote the heck out of this one). Horror fans already know that Ketchum is the real deal (Stephen King has admitted that this guy scares him). McKee is a known commodity too and has made character driven horror flicks his calling card with features like "May" and "Red." They sell this story with minimal fuss and a maximum of talent. The actors are amazing here. Angela Bettis is heart breaking as the battered mother and is at her best in a scene where she runs into a neighbor while shopping for groceries. It is a very quietly chilling moment as we watch this character struggle with small talk after seeing what her real life is like. Sean Bridgers is a new kind of evil that we've never seen on the screen before. This is a character that is so comfortable in his evil skin that he never even bothers to sneer. He smiles and never hardens his demeanor even after he has knocked his wife unconscious in the kitchen while lecturing his family on how "boys will be boys." The feral woman is actually the hero here and you find yourself almost cheering as she takes this family to task. That is where McKee shows his true strength as a filmmaker. Getting the audience to identify with the only character here that is totally alien to our lives. Excellent, thought provoking, and profoundly disturbing.
Best Line: "I feel better about losing my finger now."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: