THE CULT OF SUBMISSION

THE CULT OF SUBMISSION
Lucky McKee talks about his controversial psycho-horror, THE WOMAN

Kier-La Janisse

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A young woman raised by wolves – the last surviving member of a centuries-old feral clan – lives deep in the American wilderness, trapping and hunting her food in pre-verbal isolation. Meanwhile, in a small leave-it-to-beaver town nearby, we are introduced to the all-American family at a neighbourhood BBQ: Chris (Sean Bridgers), the charming and successful law clerk, his complacent apple-pie wife Belle (Angela Bettis), their angst-filled teenage daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), Brian, the adolescent son who worships his father (Zach Rand), and Darlin’, the gleefully unmannered three year old girl (Shyla Molhusen). But this superficial vision of ‘the people next door’ will be shaken when dad comes home after a hunting trip to reveal his latest trophy: The Woman – who will undergo a torturous program of ‘civilization’ as the father attempts to break her will.

Lucky McKee’s The Woman, based on a story he wrote with author Jack Ketchum as a spin-off to Ketchum’s Offspring/Off-Season feral family characters, has inspired conversation and controversy everywhere it has screened, and indeed it is a very uncomfortable viewing experience. The institutionally-propagated abuse of women, and the complicity of women in their own abuse resonates throughout the film – even as The Woman, chained up in the cellar, is a growling beast seething with the rage of centuries. Code-like glances that plead for action are exchanged and dismissed; while The Woman screeches and flails in her imprisonment, the other women are equally imprisoned by their own fear and silence.

A thoroughly upsetting and loaded film that expounds upon the microcosmic view of unhealthy gender dynamics explored in McKee’s earlier film May, The Woman is a film you must experience for yourself. We were privileged to get a few words from Lucky McKee in advance of his Montreal premiere.

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Tell me about your collaboration with Jack Ketchum in writing The Woman. What made you want to focus on this character of the family from Off Season?

She was the only one who survived the previous story! In fact, she only survived in the movie adaptation of Offspring. In the book she died at the end. I loved what Polly did with the character in Andrew’s film and thought it would be interesting to take the villain in the previous film and turn her into the victim in the follow up.

The film is very upsetting to watch in the characters’ treatment of women, and yet many female critics cite you as a feminist director. As with any director trying to show something truthful, there’s always that question of how much do you need to show to make a point – what was your criteria for what to show or not show?

My gut.

That said, do you consider The Woman a story based in reality or is it a fantasy?

There are many emotional truths in it. For me anyway. Can I say it’s both? It kinda is both.

There’s also a lot of female complicity in the film – I know this was one of the film’s touchier subjects for me, even more than the violence against women that you see in the film. Can you comment on it?

The whole movie is really nightmare material. In nightmares nothing happens correctly. I think once you learn why that complicity is there it makes sense. But you have to be brave enough to finish the film! A lot haven’t been.

What did the various actresses think of the script? What possibilities do you think they saw there that appealed to them?

A couple were nervous about the material but once we talked and they understood I was not interested in making an exploitation picture they were ready to go and trusted me fully.

If I’m not mistaken, everything you’ve done has had the involvement of Angela Bettis in some way. Where did this collaborative relationship start, and in what ways do you feed off eachother?

Look at her work! She is the best of the best. After meeting her while casting May I was hooked.  She has a very special gift.

How did you film the scenes that involve children, so that they weren’t exposed to the film’s horrific imagery?

I was extremely well organized. Anyone that understands a little bit about filmmaking could figure out pretty easily how I did it. I also made sure to have strong communication with their parents.

Tell me about the music – one of the film’s most striking qualities is that it is punctuated by original songs rather than a score. Can you tell me about the practicalities of getting these songs written for the film, as well as what kind of different effect you think it has on the film that if you had gone a more traditional route for a horror film?

I am so tired of movie scores in general. So we decided to create all the music as we were shooting the film. Spillane was there all during shooting and post. He was constantly creating. We didn’t just slap music on top of the picture. In most cases the sequences were edited to the music. The music was a sort of spine to build from, and also I had all of this in mind while shooting so I could tailor things. I love the way the music adds to the story. I am very proud of the soundtrack – it is special.

Now that some time has passed since its premiere what does the overall response seem to be about the film’s subject matter? I know it had some initial knee-jerk reactions at Sundance.

There are people that don’t want to be scared by horror films I guess! I think American horror has been so soft compared to the amazing films coming out of Europe and Asia lately. So I decided to make a very American film but give the edge of those films and the 70′s greats by Peckinpah, Kubrick, and Hooper (to name a few)

What can you tell me about the film you are doing with Chris Sivertson and Marc Senter, Hippy?

We are just waiting to find a company that has the balls to make it. Seems like most places want to make safe material. Stuff that is too easy. Horror should not be safe, and it should challenge the audience. That’s the business I would like to believe I am in.

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THE WOMAN screens August 2 at 9:45pm in the Hall Theatre with co-writer/director Lucky McKee in person. More info on the film page HERE.

 

 

About the author:

Kier-La Janisse

Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, Owner/Artistic Director of Spectacular Optical Publications and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (1999-2005) in Vancouver, was the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012) and contributed to Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), Recovering 1940s Horror: Traces of a Lost Decade (Lexington, 2014) The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul (University of Toronto Press, 2015) and We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (PS Press, 2017). She co-edited and published the anthology books KID POWER! (Spectacular Optical, 2014), Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (Spectacular Optical, 2015) and Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017), and is co-editing Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television for release in late 2017. She is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: Children’s Programming and the Counterculture, 1965-1985, monographs about Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter and Patricia Birch’s Grease 2, and is in development on a TV series based on her book House of Psychotic Women with Rook Films.

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