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Black October: The Woman

October 1, 2011

People who have never heard of Jack Ketchum will likely be slightly confused by this film, because the biggest question goes unanswered: Who is The Woman? Who is this Mowgli-like wild creature living feral in the American wild, this apparently never-civilized killing machine with sharpened teeth and a taste for human flesh?

We who know Ketchum know who she is. We saw Offspring, and we read Off Season, and we know why a movie was made to the sequel to his first novel, not the book itself, and it’s all very confusing. I used to have a handle on it.

The Woman is Ketchum’s first made-for-probably-straight-to-DVD screenwriting project. He worked with director Lucky McKee on creating a sequel to the Offspring movie, but explored a complete shift in the cannibal dynamic by making The Woman (Pollyana Macintosh) almost the hero and reworking the earlier concept of a long lineage of Sawney Beaney cannibals living in the forests of the eastern seaboard by showing us that savage, twisted families can wear suits and ties, not rags and skins.

Plot: A successful lawyer, who lives on an isolated property with his wife, son and daughter, finds a savage feral woman while hunting, captures her, locks her in the cellar and claims he plans to “educate” her on modern life. But he has a darker agenda, one his wife and children know all too well.

McKee directed this, and it works. It really works. I loved Offspring, but this is an entirely different feel for a Ketchum concept. It borrows from his novel (later filmed) The Girl Next Door, but throws a Fritzl spin on it with an interesting (but badly telegraphed) last-scene twist. McKee takes some weird chances here, but they work: when sleazy lawyer Chris Cleek spots The Woman in the forest for the first time, hard-driving sexy rock music swells up over the scene (and in the trailer), and there are many other interesting uses of music that come close to montage but add to the story in a smarter way, if that makes any sense. Probably not. I just watched The Woman, so I’m a little scrambled.

There is some gore here. It’s Ketchum material, so you knew that. But there’s also a solid story about quiet evil, about how death dealers can be hiding in the woods or working in the next office building. And it’s brought to us in a solidly acted, smartly written and snappy little horror flick. The ending may make you wonder, but if you know the earlier stories, you’ll love it. It works.

Remember that question from earlier? Who is The Woman? Watch this movie, and ask yourself again afterward.

Jack Ketchum hides here.

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