The Woman Review – Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

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The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit

The short film preceding the feature tonight was the third and final installment in director Chris Nash’s skin disease trilogy, Liplock. I have no idea what possesses an individual to make such a disgusting trilogy, but I have to admit that I have enjoyed Nash’s work immensely, I just won’t be re-watching them before or after I have eaten a meal. Liplock was not as upsetting as My Main Squeeze, however I do think that it is the more creative of the two and a great watch. Also, make sure to watch and vote for his ABCs of Death entry.

The Woman was the second last screening at the 6th Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Before the festival kicked off I had The Woman circled as a movie NOT to see. It just looked like an exercise in torture-porn to me. The synopsis makes it clear that a seemingly normal family finds a woman living in the wild. They then take her home and attempt to domesticate her. Add to this bare storyline the now infamous reaction by some audience members at Sundance, and to me this seemed like it would be a movie trying to push the boundaries of violence and bad taste, something I am not very interested in. However, I’m glad I decided to attend the screening in the end, and I’m glad the TAD team highlighted the dark comedic elements to be found in The Woman. It turned out to be an entertaining movie with a cool soundtrack and some excellent characters.

The Woman was directed by Lucky McKee (May, Red, and The Woods) and written by McKee and Jack Ketchum. For those who don’t know, Jack Ketchum has to be one of the most talented authors out there when it comes to grisly violence and inhuman villains. I haven’t seen any of the Ketchum adaptations that have been made (Offspring, Red, The Girl Next Door and The Lost), but if a director ever manages to put a perfect adaption of a Ketchum novel up on the screen, then the audience will be in for a sleepless night. The Woman is definitely toned down Ketchum. Yes it is violent, yes some of the characters are evil bastards, but it is certainly not the boundary pushing work of violence that I thought it would be. Much of the violence takes place off-screen, and it is not overdone. Also, the very dark comedic element actually lightens the mood every now and then, so it really doesn’t feel oppressive, unlike most works of torture-porn.

The music in The Woman consists of a pop-indie-rock soundtrack that was not written scene-by-scene for the film, but rather for the work as a whole. Such a light and cool soundtrack also helps to alleviate some of the emotions that will surely build up in viewers watching a film about such dark subject matter.

Finally, the cast do an incredible job in The Woman. Of particular note are the performances by Sean Bridgers and Zach Rand, as the evil father and son duo of Chris and Brian Cleek. Viewers will absolutely loathe these characters for their callous treatment of others. However, the star of the film is without a doubt Pollyanna McIntosh as the Woman. McIntosh brings a primal energy to the screen and remarkably the guttural sound effects emitted by the Woman are from McIntosh and not from some animal in post-production. A wonderful performance, and apparently one that McIntosh prepared for by spending some considerable time alone in the woods.

The Woman is not for everyone, and is certainly not a ground-breaking work in the horror genre, but it is without a doubt an entertaining movie. Any accusations of this being a torture-porn or anti-feminist work are completely unfounded. These accusations stem from a shallow understanding of what The Woman is all about, and a failure to see the big picture.

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