The Woman (2011): Nell With a Twist


Lucky McKee directed and co-wrote (with author Jack Ketchum) The Woman; a film  that could be called Nell on acid. Although this is a sequel to the 2009 McKee film Offspring about a “tribe” of cannibals who roamed the north-east coast. The “woman” is the sole survivor of this tribe. But not having seen the film, I did not learn this from watching the feature. Wikipedia kindly supplied that information.

Like the 1994 film Nell, where a small town doctor (Liam Neeson) finds a “wild” hermit girl who has very limited social skills, The Woman features a male character who finds a “hermit-like” feral girl with very limited social skills. The main difference between the two films are that in Nell, Neeson’s character wants to help the girl.

The male in The Woman does not have help in mind when he captures the feral woman.

Vive le différence.

Of course the other connection between the two films is that the actor who plays Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) was also in Nell. Small world isn’t it? I’ve also got to say, it bothered the hell  out of me that Bridgers looked enough like Will Ferrell to be his twin brother.

The Woman opens with a wild and savage woman in the woods. She is feral and adept at hunting and fishing. She’s also Amazonian in stature and apparently quite strong. Chris Cleek goes out into the woods to hunt and stumbles across her.

He is obviously intrigued and makes plans to capture her. He succeeds in this and takes her captive. Unlike Nell, where the good doctor wants to study and help his “discovery,” Cleek wants to turn her into his and his son’s plaything. Something to torture and humiliate and abuse.

The Cleek family consists of Chris, wife Belle (Angela Bettis), daughters Peggy  (Lauren Ashley Carter) and Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) plus son Brian (Zach Rand). The family is all about what Chris wants. He is a class A pervert, control freak and hater of women. Son Brian, under his dad’s loving but controlling tutelage, is a chip off the old block.

While the woman is held captive in the old storm cellar, tensions rise as the whole family become involved with this wild creature and the school is getting concerned at the constant absence of Peggy from classes.

As the film moves disturbingly to it’s almost inevitable and anticipated finish, you will be hard pressed not to be disgusted at the way that head of the family Chris rules his family with an iron hand. The females of his family are terrified of him and not without cause.

While the woman he is holding captive in the cellar might be feral, he is a monster and son Brian a monster in-training.

Not the real monster in this story.
Not the real monster in this story.

When the film premiered in the US, there was some controversy about the subject matter and the way that women were treated and depicted in the film. I seem to remember charges of sensationalism being levied as well. But considering that director Lucky McKee was not above generating any kind of publicity for his film, I don’t know how much credence can be given to any of these charges.

As for myself, I couldn’t for the life of me decide whether the filmmakers were making an anti-feminist sort of statement or were awkwardly trying to make some sort of empowering statement for women!

The climax is shocking, but not surprising. It is bloody and savage and well worth the wait. But having said that, it is still confusing. It is a powerful film and a shocking and disturbing one.

I would give the film a 3.5 stars out of 5 only because it was very different. Not having seen the prequel of Offspring, I have no idea if continuity was good or bad. I only know that for the most part, I found the film very distasteful and kept watching to see if some sort of justice would be served.

A film that is definitely not for everyone. But if you can stand it, it is on Netflix at the moment.

Not nearly as violent or disturbing...
Not nearly as violent or disturbing…

Underground (2011): Underwhelming


Sometimes when you find a DVD on sale for five pounds stirling you get a bit excited because you might have just found a bargain. A lot of times the “bargain bucket” can contain some hidden treasures. A wonderfully surprising gem.

Underground is not one of these delightful surprises. In fact, I feel like the price was about four pounds too much.

For as many things that the film did well; prosthetics and the “creature’s” makeup, there were too many other things that drug the film down into the muck and mire of sheer dismal drudgery.

Directed by Rafael Eisenman, Underground never takes off as a film. The acting is atrocious and the storyline asinine.

A group of young people attend a rave at an abandoned Army base. The base, which was shut down after some sort of top secret experiment went wrong and wound up killing a squad of soldiers, houses the result of this experiment, deep underground in a nest of bunkers.

The young people, two of whom are ex-soldiers, get into a fight with what looks like a motorcycle gang; who are referred to repeatedly as gang bangers. When it looks like the soldiers are going to win the fight, more gang bangers come pouring out of the crowd and chase the smaller group into the bunkers.

When they close the door they find a man and woman having sex. They soon find out that they’ve been locked in the bunkers and that the sexy couple are not the only things that they’re sharing the bunker with.

One of the better action sequences and one of the few times you could see.
One of the better action sequences and one of the few times you could see.

A real hodge-podge of a film, Underground has too many problems to really work. The editing really lets the whole thing down, as well as the lighting. Between it being too dark to really see who is who and the editing seemingly done by a sight impaired editor, the action is difficult to follow and the viewer winds up getting as lost as the young people in the bunker.

The acting was wooden and lifeless, a lot like the interaction between the main protagonist and his doctor girlfriend. But I don’t want to single them out as an example; the only actors who seemed realistic were the ones playing the “creatures.”

The plot relies on the old chestnut of a Nazi scientist experimenting on American soldiers. This “scientist” was supposedly an apprentice of Dr Mengele (the angel of death) who is rumoured to have escaped to South America and died. Granted the guy looked like he might be about a hundred years old. But Nazi’s? It would have made for a great black comedy, except this film was so bad, it wasn’t even unintentionally funny.

There were a few things they did well. Some of the creature effects were very good. The overall production value, when you could see it, was good as well. I am assuming that, like a lot of other recent films, that it was shot using digital equipment. Unfortunately high production values alone do not a good film make.

There were way too few scares and the action, when there was any, was again edited poorly and the lighting was even worse. I suppose you could blame the film’s problems on the low-budget, but really in this day and age, that is no excuse. I do  like dark films, but not so dark that I can’t make out what’s happening.

Avoid at all cost, unless you like being over-charged by four pounds for a film.

He's lucky, he won't live long enough to watch the end of this film.
He’s lucky, he won’t live long enough to watch the end of this film.
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