2011 - 102m.
Lucky McKee exploded into the indie horror world in 2002 with May, a tale of loneliness and the desire for connection that was angry, sombre, and blew away many genre fans. He quickly established himself as a director with a unique voice and vision but unfortunately had a number of bad experiences when making subsequent films such as The Woods and Red that have not allowed fans to see McKee grow as a filmmaker the way we should have. When I heard that McKee was collaborating with controversial horror author, Jack Ketchum, on both a book and a film that is a follow-up to Ketchum's feral clan thrillers "Off Season" and "The Offspring", I was very excited by the news. After its legendary premiere at Sundance when an audience member erupted with a vocal condemnation of the film and subject matter, I was even more intrigued. Although I have tried to get my hands on the book, I have found it very difficult to find so I decided to dive right into the film to see what the fuss was all about.
Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role as The Woman (first seen in the 2009 film adaptation of Ketchum's The Offspring). She is living in the woods near a family that includes a man named Chris (Sean Bridgers) who is one of the most horrible husband/father figures you will ever see. One day while hunting, Chris finds The Woman washing herself and devises a plan to capture her and take her home under the guise that he wants to "tame" her (although it seems pretty clear that he has more sinister and perverted motives). Chris chains her up in a root cellar on the family property and promptly introduces his wife (Angela Bettis) and children to their new guest. The daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) is opposed to what is happening but the creepy son Brian (Zach Rand) seems gung ho to use The Woman as a way to experiment with this budding sexual and sadistic awakening. After a number of abusive moments, things finally come to a head in a violent and savage finale.
On the surface, this is a somewhat standard abduction movie with a woman being chained up against her will while a sleazy man dominates and abuses her. As a result, this will certainly offend a portion of the viewership. That being said, this is not an ordinary woman but one who is quite ferocious (readers familiar with Ketchum's other stories involving her clan will be well aware of this). The film attempts to call the word "civilized" into question as it is pretty easy to see that the character of Chris is quite clearly a sociopath and is instilling these characteristics into his son who is already travelling down a similar path. Although, you will certainly not see a role reversal by the end of the film, you will recognize that the difference between the two types of savagery is the Chris and his son seem to be getting pleasure (both sexually and mentally) out of their treatment of The Woman while The Woman acts the way she is because she has never known any other way. One could argue that Chris' intent was to tame the woman but as events transpire, we can see that this is clearly not the case.
My biggest frustration with the film is the character of the wife played by Angela Bettis (May herself) but this was likely the reaction that McKee was going for as it is a portrayal that may be quite realistic of a woman in an abusive relationship. She is a slave to her husband and I was hoping she would have more to do other than being a weak-willed character who just hangs in the background being fully aware of the family's new guest but she is clearly terrified of her husband. Bettis plays the character well but her inaction is clear to everyone including The Woman and I had trouble being sympathetic towards her. The plot also involves Peggy's high school teacher who identifies an issue in the family but also comes across as ineffective and I am not sure what the point of the character was in the first place. Overall, I can see that McKee was going for some sort of social commentary and exploration of dysfunctional family dynamics and he is clearly still a talented filmmaker but the end result comes across as more exploitative than insightful. Fans of 2015's Room will recognize Bridgers as the kidnapper in that film as well. (Josh Pasnak, 1/12/17)
Directed By: Lucky McKee.
Written By: Lucky McKee, Jack Ketchum.
Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter.