By Jerome Reuter
The Woman is a 2011 horror film, based on the Jack Ketchum book of the same name. Adapted to the screen by director Lucky McKee, with the help of Ketchum, it’s visceral tale, and not for the weak at heart. Much like he’s done with works such as The Girl Next Door, Ketchum turns middle America into the ninth circle of Hell.
The story is centered around a feral woman living in the woods. Kidnapped one day by county lawyer under the pretense of civilizing her. his true intentions are less than humane. I find this to be one of the most intriguing parts of the story. Stories of wild children being made a part of society, exist throughout folklore. Much like the lead from Eyes Without A Face, the cause is one of complete self-interest. Chained up the family’s cellar, she enters her own form of purgatory. The lawyer himself is the ultimate symbol of male dominated patriarchy, ruling his family with an iron hand. Upon closer observation of his family life, we find out just how reprehensible of a human being he is.
I’ve always felt Ketchum’s greatest talent as a writer is his ability to expose the darkness of human nature. Aside from that, dispel any preconceptions of the traditional American family. I like to think of it as taking napalm to a Norman Rockwell painting. The immediate family caught my attention, as they further reveal the father’s character. First off, there’s the wife and mother. A passive, blind follower to the rules of the patriarchy. She almost reminded me of someone suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and someone completely desensitized to cruelty.
His three children of the story, represent different personality types. The oldest daughter, represents the perennial victim. Although it isn’t disclosed outright, she’s a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her sadistic father. She greatly empathizes with the woman, and is the beacon of humanity. The youngest daughter, is naivete and innocence. Unaware of the severity of the situation, most likely due to her age, she only wishes to help.
It’s the son however, who is the very depth of depravity. Much like his father, he is sadism. He delights in the torment of others with a complete lack of empathy. It’s the path he’s travelled to get there, that I found most shocking. Much like The Girl Next Door, there’s an angle of psychological manipulation. As the film progresses, it’s gradually revealed more and more, that this behavior is taught by the father. There’s an old saying: “Evil isn’t born, it’s taught.” The mind of a child is one of the most impressionable things that exist. It’s one of the things that make this film hit as hard as it does. We’re given the chance to witness the grooming of a sociopath.
The cruelest animal of this story isn’t the wild girl chained up. It’s the wretched animal that walks on hind legs, and blends into the fabric of everyday life. Mckee and Ketchum force us to look inwards the the ugliness that hides within us all.