director Lucky McKee
Little tales of misogyny. Actually, this is a big tale of big misogyny. Thus its sordid reputation at film festivals.
I’d only seen one of director Lucky McKee’s films, his 2002 movie, May, which wound up surprising me positively. When I read about his latest, edgy, controversial film, I was curious. So much contemporary horror films are intensely uninspired, that something that shocks and appalls piques one’s interest (thus The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009), right?)
The story about a small town nuclear family, who lives isolated on a pretty private lot, who take in a feral woman that the father captures in the nearby woods, chains in the storm shelter, and ostensibly tries to “socialize”. This, however, is no The Wild Child (1970), no real sense of humanity trying to better a feral human. No, this is all hypocrisy, barely veiled paternalism, misogyny, and ultimately rape and more violence. It’s not going to end well.
The film is about the father’s point of view, the iron-fist of the family law, smacking down the women, cowing them into shame and quietude, suggesting further violence, both physical and psychological. And the creepy breeding of the teenage son into a sexual manipulator in his father’s image. When the woman is finally cut loose, her vengeance is not just personal, it’s meant to be societal, a female rage that eviscerates the oppressors.
There are shots, moments, when this titillating material looks strong. But those are shots and moments. Between those shots and moments is the rest of the film, which feels sloppy or rushed, not as strong or sophisticated as it would need to be to pull off its intellectual goals. Either that or just not plain visceral enough.
Frankly, the idea, the concept, is creepy and stark. Could be interesting. I still think so, even after having watched The Woman and feeling less than impressed with its take on its material.
And where lies the misogyny? Is it in the text or the subtext, in the eye of the producer or the beholder? That’s probably an openly debatable question.