The Woman.

Posted by resonanteye on 09/29/2014

Originally Published on: Nov 19, 2012

What are you afraid of?

I mean, in your everyday life. What do you actually fear?

I personally am not afraid that someone in a hockey mask will chop me to pieces at summer camp. I’m not really worried about zombies, monsters, or mutated townsfolk in New Mexico wastelands. I don’t shudder to think that cave creatures will eat me, and I don’t believe in ghosts- not ghosty ghosts, anyway. I’m an atheist so demons don’t frighten me.

Shit, what IS there to fear?

The things that scare me are things that are possible.

I used to get a scared thrill from serial killer sort of movies. Pioughkeepsie Tapes is a great example of this, and I liked it because I watch and read a lot of true-crime nonfiction. The cop’s eye view, though- it makes another layer there, a bit of distance. No matter how the suspense that “the killer could be watching this with you in the theater” is attempted, those crimes are in the past, and therefore not something possible, something frightening.

Movies like “Henry” or “I Spit on Your Grave” are along these lines. The plot is possible, (though unlikely) and the themes of vulnerability are frightening. There’s only so many times I can be frightened by the same slasher plot, so many times that the thought of a serial killer, the slim chance of that, can make me horrified. And if a film is a remake- for me, it barely counts. I have a hard time immersing myself in the film if I have seen it before. I spend my time looking for plot changes, comparing the new cast to the old, rather than suspending my disbelief.

So what actually scares me? When I see a movie with a character that is narcissistic, abusive- someone who is manipulative enough to pass as normal to others- I start to get a little scared. Domestic abuse scares the shit out of me. Rape and child abuse, neglect and sexual assault. Movies like A Serbian Film scare the crap out of me- those things happen, that stuff exists, and worse. And there are people all around who seem normal who pay per view…

So, given all this, The Woman is a great horror movie. And not just a great horror movie, but potentially a game-changer.

To have a female character not run, not once, not scream- during an entire movie. Regardless of how this is accomplished within the plot, it’s a complete reversal of the usual characterization of women in horror films. The father’s slick, brazen control over his family and his maltreatment of the women in it is believable, and familiar. The first slap is almost a release of the tension in the film. In an abusive relationship, every moment is spent in tension, waiting for the shoe to drop- and the movie does a great job of building that tension, and then releasing it.

Of course the ending is extreme. However there is one scene which stands out- as the Woman is killing the father, she pumps her arm inside his wound, staring into his eyes. It’s definitely a sexual moment, a reversal, again, of the usual theme in horror. She’s fisting his wound, violating him physically in a violent manner. Usually in horror only women are violated this way, and with this much eroticism to the violence.

The character of the son, with his nascent sociopathy and sadism, was absolutely chilling. Men who are as disturbed and abusive as the father in this film do NOT make good parents to daughters OR sons. It’s questionable whether that character could have been redeemed at any point, whether it’s in his genes or taught- but that he purposely explains his motives and actions to the son suggests it is both.

The mother’s hopelessness in the situation and her seeming inability to do anything useful is very accurate. In an abusive relationship of long standing, the abused person becomes listless, unable to make decisions. The mother in this film has obviously been taught well that there is no hope for her; that there is no escape, and that her situation, bad as it is, is the best she will ever get.

This is horror. This is something that happens, that CAN happen. People like the father in this film exist, and they are not “crazy-looking”, they are not wearing skin masks, out on the edge of society. They preach in the church and sell the real estate and run the bank. They are high-functioning and they exist. When they’re caught, IF they are caught, nobody can believe it. Often the abused in the family are not believed. And through slow escalation, their abuses can eventually become extreme and unbelievable. I have to add this character to the list of accurately-depicted narcissists in film. He’s apt, he’s correct, and his casual ownership of others, his assumed control over them, is exactly how these people operate in real life.

The only real problems with this, for me, were the crappy, overclocked soundtrack (WAY TOO LOUD, wtf?) and the allowance of bits of humor in the violence and catharsis at the end. There is no reason to shy away and lighten the mood during a cathartic scene- just let the intensity stay high, please. Hitting the dog-sister in the head with a goofy “clang” doesn’t add much to the scene, and dilutes the character of the woman into slapstick, instead of wordless menace.

I read a lot about crap like extreme neglect, and feral children, and I thought the main character was very well written on that level.

This movie triggered me, and scared me. It’s the first movie I’ve seen in a while, too, in which the bad guys did NOT look like cartoon versions of my friends, (*coughinsidiouscough*, *hic30daysofnightcup*) but like the kind of people I have known in real life to be completely rotten.

So- yes, it’s a great horror movie. It scared the crap out of me, right up to the ending- which made me feel better. Just like any great horror movie, you get to ride away, while leatherface dances alone.

7 Responses to “The Woman.”

  1. hsnitch said

    Me too! The moment when the baby cried and all the soldiers and fighters just stopped, and let her through.

    Like

  2. OOOh children of men…how I love that movie.

    Like

  3. Jim said

    FANTASTIC topic, Anji! I like how your opening question in this article isn’t what it seems, and I fully appreciate the type of fear you ultimately end up explaining.

    If we’re talking about movies that scare you, my favorite horror film is The Shining. Not because the father, Jack Torrance, ends up being a reincarnated family killing psychopath, but because he’s an abusive alcoholic. I thought his performance was very real. I grew up with an abusive alcoholic for a father, so I know what I’m talking about. And the characters of Wendy and Danny are also played very well. Confused and terrified. Not only that, but when that movie came out, I had an uncle at the time that looked EXACTLY like Jack Nicholson did in that movie, and that uncle was a fucking scary SCARY man. I’m pretty sure that he molested my cousin. He was violent, short tempered, a drunk, etc etc. And a complete dick on top of all that. The Shining, to me, is pretty much everything you were talking about. Scary shit that CAN and DOES happen.

    But let’s talk about movies that are about scary situations, but I secretly wish for them to happen in real life. I want to live in the post-apocalyptic world. I really want that shit to go down. I don’t give a fuck how; comet strike, nuclear war, collapse of society. I guess I just want to live in a world that basically doesn’t have any rules. I don’t want to have to answer to the normal everyday bullshit of life anymore. So here’s a list of my favorite post-apocalypse films:

    The Road Warrior (they better not fuck up the new one coming out!)

    Threads (brutally honest, especially for a tv movie from the 80’s)

    The Terminator (my favorite scenes were the memories of the future. Dark, filthy, gritty, hard, difficult, hopeless. Oh, and let’s not forget plasma rifles!)

    The Road (I LOVE ROAD TRIPS!)

    Children of Men (Another gritty, dirty film. No hope whatsoever)

    The Book of Eli (haven’t seen it yet, just a couple bits and pieces. But I’m sure it’s good. Even if it’s not good, I’ll still like it. I mean, if a fan of zombie films can like every zombie film ever made, NO MATTER HOW SHITTY IT IS, then I get to like every post-apocalypse movie ever made no matter how shitty it is)

    Battlestar Galactica ( I love love LOVE this series! It’s the end of the world, and the world, for all intents and purposes, isn’t even there anymore. These people are trapped, on the run, exhausted. A ceaseless never ending voyage of strife and turmoil and pain and loss. Everything just keeps getting worse and worse and worse as the series goes on. I’ve got the entire series on dvd and have watched it in it’s entirety probably 20 or 30 times in the last three of four years. As a matter of fact, I just started it back up again a few days ago! )

    Fallout 3 video game (I don’t know what it is, but this game is perfectly moody. The sound of the wind, the music, creatures or robots in the distance, the color of the ground and the sky, and the characters. All the characters are kinda how you would expect people to be 200 years after a nuclear war; quirky and somehow just a bit “off”.)

    Any of these worlds depicted in any of these movies (or video game) are a world I would want to live in. Bring on the apocalypse, I CAN’T WAIT!

    Like

  4. hsnitch said

    Even in Buffy, throughout the entire series, the episode that upset me the most was when Buffy’s mother had a boyfriend who slapped Buffy, and her mother didn’t believe her when Buffy told her. I am SO terrified that I’ll end up in that situation, as the mother.

    So yeah, only the truly possible is truly frightening.

    Like

  5. Yup,that movie was another scary one. “The Girl Next Door” (the Jack Ketchum version) was another good horror in that vein.

    Once Were Warriors even has the downer ending- I love a good/bad downer ending.

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  6. hsnitch said

    I understand you, with the fear of the possible. I watched all the Saw and Hostel movies, with an occasional “ew” or gasp of surprise, but not fear. I could NOT sit through Once Were Warriors. I’ve never been in an abusive situation, so it was not “triggering” in the PTSD sense. It was just too real. I hear it gets worse and gets better, but I couldn’t watch past the part where the teen daughter is about to be raped by the father’s friend. I couldn’t do it. It repelled me so much that I pressed Stop, ejected the disk, and broke it. My boyfriend asked me why, and I said I was not having it in my house, not ever.

    Like

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