Sunday, February 6, 2011

Women in Horror: Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee's The Woman

I absolutely love both Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. Jack Ketchum wrote one of my favorite books The Girl Next Door, which details the extreme abuse of a young girl by her aunt. The violence wasn't gratuitous in the novel, but shows the reader the depths of the evil humanity is capable of with an idyllic 50's neighborhood as a backdrop. It is one of the most powerful and disturbing books I have ever read. Lucky McKee directed May, a modern retelling of Frankenstein with a lonely, odd girl as the creator instead of a scientist. In the film, May is a sympathetic character even as she hacks up those that have hurt to to create an all new friend from their parts. She is never demonized or seen as monstrous, but just as a misguided girl whose every attempt at reaching out to anyone has failed miserably. These two working together sounds like a match made in heaven to me. They have collaborating on a film called The Woman, which is a sequel to one of Jack Ketchum's previous novels called Offspring. Here is the synopsis from

The Woman is the last surviving member of a feral clan that has roamed the Northeast Coast for decades. When the last of her family is killed in a battle with the police, The Woman finds herself alone, severely wounded and vulnerable. Unfortunately, she is now a far too easy prey for local hunter, successful country lawyer and seriously disturbed family man Christopher Cleek. With his twisted set of ideals, Cleek decides to embark upon a deranged project - to capture her and "break" The Woman - a decision that will soon threaten the lives of Cleek, his family and The Woman.

This new film that was screened at the Sundance film festival has stirred up a lot of controversy. During the screening of the film, a woman tried to run out of the theater, but tripped and was injured. Another man got up afterwards and started yelling that it was garbage, demeaning to women, and should be burned. Here is the video of this man backstage ranting about it after he was escorted by security from the Q&A.

With these two people working together, I don't see anything misogynistic coming from it. The problem is the concept of rape and abuse. These are obviously horrible and would never be condoned or encouraged by anyone. When it is included in a film, it's easy to just see the abuse, take it at face value, and just assume that the filmmaker wants to promote violence towards women. In most films, this isn't the case at all. For example, in Deadgirl, a couple of young men find a zombie-like woman tied to a table and take the opportunity to rape and torture her. It doesn't promote rape, but shows how rapists see their victims as less than human and therefore it's ok to treat them in whatever way they see fit. I know that rape is hard to watch in a film. I've seen Irreversible and I never, ever want to see it again. However, I want to watch and analyse this film before we start passing judgment on it being misogynistic. It seems like the film is going to challenge the audience to judge who is the real monster: the Woman, who is part of a violent clan of people and has never been part of society/civilization, or Christopher Cleek, who decides to "civilize" her through the most barbaric means imaginable. I'm really interested in seeing how the story ends and if the film is as bad as the controversy surrounding it portrays it to be. Too bad I'll have to wait until it makes it to DVD.

If you'd like to read the book the film is based on, you can buy it here in ebook form in whatever format you'd like.

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