The Horror Honeys: Lucky McKee & Equal-Opportunity Misogyny

Lucky McKee & Equal-Opportunity Misogyny

A Vintage Revenge Honey Rant

Hell hath no fury like a totally irrelevant tagline...
(Settle in for Part Two of my two week rant about one of my least favorite horror directors, Lucky McKee!)

As was clearly evidenced by my previous post on Lucky McKee's other films, there is no love lost in my (one-sided) relationship with him. I had always found his movies to be offensive to women, the LGBT community, and even the mentally ill. He writes his characters, particularly the females, with the broad strokes of frat boy who took a 'Women Studies 101' class to meet chicks. There is nothing subtle or interesting about them, and thus it didn't take long for me to lose any interest in seeking out his future works. However, I was convinced to give one of his films a try, and that film was The Woman.

Various film websites describe the plot of The Woman as the story of a small town lawyer who finds a feral woman in the woods, brings her home, and strings her up in his shed with the intention of civilizing her. However, this is really just the subplot to a far more disturbing but somehow less complicated portrait of fucked up "nuclear" family dynamics. The feral woman in the shed is a bystander to the horrible atrocities that the lawyer is inflicting on his own family. And the broad strokes that McKee generally applies to only his women are cast to every character in his vain attempt at a "morality" tale. (Forgive my liberal use of quotation marks, but I can't help myself this time.)

But what is my motivation, Lucky?
Angela Bettis, who apparently sold her soul to either McKee or satan, plays the lawyer's wife. She is physically and emotionally abused, stands by as her husband sexually molests their teenage daughter (clearly implied but never shown, thankfully), does nothing when her husband kidnaps the Woman, and never interferes as husband turns their son into a rapist/sociopathic bastard. She is a victim and doormat.  Throughout the entire of the film, there are never any hints that she is anything but a cliche of what McKee imagines an abused wife to be. What is by far most frustrating about her character, however, is that even when there are hints of potential for sedition in the filmmaking, they are nothing more than vanity on the part of McKee that lead nowhere. In the end, Bettis's character is an infuriating catalyst that aids by proxy in the extended abuse of her children and the innocent women whom her husband rapes and murders with reckless abandon.

And then there is the son. Played by Zach Rand with dead-eyed sociopathic relish, this child doesn't have an ounce of understated-ness to his personality. There is no hint of ability to blend or feign normal human emotion, which even the novice sociopath comes equipped with. When we first meet the son, he is watching a group of boys beat the crap out of young girl, and he just goes on playing basketball. As the father grooms him to pick up his mantle of rape, murder, and torture, the son watches on with wild-eyed wonder. It's sick and depraved and because he is clearly getting such pleasure out of it, the viewer isn't left with the ability to feel sorry for him. Like his father, there is no middle ground to his personality. His was born a shit, he will die a shit (sooner rather than later), and the viewer isn't even encouraged to care.

That's the pervy smirk of a true family man.
So why is this family as irreversibly screwed up as they are? Lucky McKee clearly doesn't give a crap. The bad guys are bad. The good guys are good but far between. In the end, the viewer is left sympathizing with only the sexually molested daughter who has been turned into a shadow and the youngest daughter who may still have a chance at redemption. (I won't ruin the ending in case you are curious enough about this film to seek it out.) But realistically, there is only one hero in The Woman. And that is the woman who has been beaten, raped, tortured, starved, and completely demoralized.

Whatever he promises you Angela, it's not worth it! WALK INTO THE LIGHT!
In any other movie, this woman would never be a hero, because she was easily trapped by an utterly inept man despite the fact she has survived perfectly well in the woods on her own for her entire adult life. However, when lined up against every other female character in this film, she's basically frigging Wonder Woman. The ending is satisfying only in that the women in the film who you have come have a modicum of respect for take control of their own futures. But, as is the norm in a Lucky McKee movie, the characterization is so distressingly one-note that no one really escapes unscathed.

Yes, true feminist heroes can be hard to find in the horror genre, but they are out there. The problems arise when films like The Woman enter the lexicon and distract the conversation by creating black and white cliche characters with no true motivations. The woman may ultimately save the day and right the wrongs inflicted on her by an unjust society (or more specifically, a savage and sociopathic man), but in the end, who really wins?

I feel your pain sister. I feel your pain.

Certainly not the viewer who just wasted their time being assaulted by a brutally unpleasant film with no purpose and absolutely no ethical or narrative center. And not the female gender, who are forced to deal with a so-called ally who is actually crafting more offensive archetypes than writers and directors who come right out and admit they don't give a shit about women in their films. Once again, Lucky McKee proves with The Woman that he is a master of both faux-feminism and generally offensive negative stereotyping.