The Woman Blu-ray review

Lucky McKee’s horror The Woman arrives on Blu-ray. Here’s Mark’s review of a violent, thought-provoking film…

My main bugbear with modern horror is the inane misanthropy on show, particularly in franchise mainstays such as Saw and Final Destination. These are often films in which the audience is confronted with archetypal stock characters, and spend the running time waiting for them to be killed off in some acceptable succession.

And so, perhaps the most interesting thing about The Woman, which is adapted by Jack Ketchum and director Lucky McKee from the former’s own novel, is how it is much more calculated in its misanthropy. The audience is instead confronted with some deeply disturbing stuff, primarily based around the banality of evil in small-town Massachusetts.

The first character we meet is the woman of the title, a solitary, wild character who we see roaming the American wilderness. She’s discovered by a lawyer, Chris Cleek, while he’s out on a hunting trip. Cleek lives nearby with his long-suffering wife and daughters, and his twisted son.

Coming across the woman in the woods, Cleek abducts her and drags her back to his ranch. He trusses her up in his barn, and begins to try and civilise her. But Cleek himself is a savage man, his deep hatred and disrespect for women hidden under a façade of civility. But the woman in the barn won’t bend to his will, and eventually, something’s got to give.

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The film is a sequel to 2009’s Offspring, also adapted from Ketchum’s book, but given how I hadn’t even heard of that film until after watching The Woman, I don’t think you need to be too concerned about following any existing continuity. You’re more likely to be perturbed by the story, as it appears here, in and of itself.

It’s basically about the collision between a loathsome bastard and a force of nature. Chris Cleek, bravely played by Sean Bridgers, treats the women in his life as if he’s dragging up dogs. That’s a comparison that becomes shockingly apt in the film’s audacious climax, more on which later, but Chris is so awful a human being, behind his self-righteousness, that you can’t look away.

However, he’s not the scariest character in the film, and I’m not saying that the woman out-evils him either. The scariest character is Brian, Chris’ son and the only other male in the family. From his very first appearance, as he watches a group of boys picking on a girl in his class, we see that he’s adopted his father’s worst excesses at a very young age.

He’s even scarier in that regard, because his cruelty is still yet to mature, and Zach Rand’s spiteful performance helps that along.

The standout, predictably, is Pollyanna McIntosh as the title character. Given how she’s not big on talking, her performance is expressive and feral, embellished by certain aids in editing and storytelling. Her character being The Woman, that makes her the definitive article of womanhood, as far as this film’s female characters are concerned.

Having thought about the film quite a bit since seeing it, I don’t believe that it’s a misogynistic film, but rather a film about misogyny. The treatment of Chris’ wife and daughter might seem as harsh in the script as in Chris’ actions towards them. However, the film angrily indicts women who don’t stand up for what they believe in, when they apparently have every chance.

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To many, this affront to the expectations of feminist representation in film will be abhorrent. But crucially, I don’t think that any of the filmmakers believe, as presented here, that all men are evil and all women are good. They’re telling a story in which the real monster – a sexist, abusive pig who’s got up on his hind trotters and proclaimed himself to be in the right – can only be stopped by women, and yet they don’t declare that all women are free of guilt, for their part in enabling the monster.

All of which comes to a head in the aggressively gory climax. There’s a point to the general misanthropic thrust of the film, and that point might not make it easy or enjoyable watch. What seems like a film about delayed gratification in the line of gory revenge movies is instead revealed as something else entirely.

But if you profess to enjoy Saw or Final Destination for the inventive and elaborate deaths, as gory as they are, the blunt force trauma of The Woman is probably not for you. As repulsive as it is, I also found it thought provoking, complex and highly unpredictable, even if I would never recommend it as a horror film to watch on a night in with your mates.


The Woman comes with a fairly comprehensive package of extras on this region-free Blu-ray disc. This includes a couple of brisk making-of features, and some deleted scenes that don’t really add much to the tightly edited film. There’s also an audio track of Sean Spillane’s Distracted, one of the songs from the film’s soundtrack.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray is an American Horror panel from this year’s FrightFest. I found myself wondering, as I watched Total Film‘s discussion (with directors McKee, Andrew van den Houten, Ti West, Joe Lynch, Adam Green and Larry Fessenden) if it could serve as an extra on any number of films by its other contributors. Either way, it’s insightful, and a canny addition.

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More detached is Mi burro, a surreal Spanish-language animation whose only real connection to The Woman is the fact that McKee produced it. I suppose it accompanies the disturbing main feature in much the same way as Pixar prefaces its features with charming short films.

My fundamental nitpick is the disc’s lack of a subtitle track. It’s not an oversight that’s unique amongst Revolver Entertainment’s catalogue, but having mild hearing difficulties, I appreciate that some people, more hard of hearing than I, will have more trouble following the film without subtitles than I did. How hard can it be to include an English subtitle track, in this day and age?

For the great audio and video transfer, and the extra value of the FrightFest feature, I would recommend the Blu-ray over the DVD in this case, but I wouldn’t similarly recommend the film to everybody. If you’ve read through this review, you already know whether or not you want to give this one a try. 


4 stars

You can rent or buy The Woman at


2 out of 5