The first day of the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND 2011 is officially over. Other than the fact that driving around this awful city eats my ass I’d say the opening night was a huge hit. It was a double billing of 2009’s OFFSPRING (written by Jack Ketchum) and it’s sequel, 2011’s THE WOMAN (written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee). Just like last year’s Frightmare Weekend, the opening night proved once again that these people know how to throw a helluva convention!! It’s organized, well planned out, and everyone involved has their s**t together … ask anyone wearing a “staff” tshirt a question and they all know the answer!! I stopped by the hotel first to pre-register and they had everything set up and ready to go. I wish everything in life ran as smoothly as this convention!!
I saw OFFSPRING back in late 2009 (who wouldn’t? It’s a Ketchum novel for Christ’s sake!!) and I must admit that I wasn’t really too crazy about it. The director, Andrew van den Houten (who produced THE WOMAN), was in attendance at the screening. I never reviewed OFFSPRING on anythighorror.com because I saw it before I started my site and I just couldn’t sit through it over again in order to refresh my memory. I’m not a sadist!! But lucky for you at the time I was posting reviews on netflix, so I tracked it down and will post that review below.
Was I looking forward to seeing OFFSPRING for a second time even with a year and a half separating my viewings? No; not really. But just like with last years SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS, it’s always waaaaay more fun to see a genre flick with an audience!! Well OFFSPRING is the exception that proves the rule. It’s just not a strong film; full of ridiculous plot holes and too much shaky camera work for my taste. After it’s screening, director Andrew van den Houten came out and talked to the audience. Houten is himself an extremely likable guy with a ton of energy and an obvious love of the genre. He drove to Dallas from Louisiana, hot off the set of filming horror author Brian Keene’s novel GHOUL (there’s an exclusive for ya). He was running a little late because he wanted to be on set for the scene where 2 baby twins were slaughtered in a bathtub (hey; another exclusive!!!).
Houten talked about how after producing the movie version of Ketchum’s novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, a very intense and draining film, he was ready to do something a little more “grindhousey” (his word, not mine LOL). That’s why he did OFFSPRING. The problem wasn’t with the direction, but with the story. It felt like a rush job and was pretty lazy. Houten told us Ketchum himself wrote the screen adaptation is about a month, month in a half (check out my short review of OFFSPRING below).
And then we get to the main feature … THE WOMAN. I have mixed feelings about this one. I get the film itself and I get what director and co-writer Lucky McKee (who wrote this with Jack Ketchum) was trying to do. I’m not gonna write my full review for THE WOMAN just yet; I think I need to digest it. On first viewing it I didn’t think I cared for it. But the more I’m thinking about it I think I enjoyed it a lot. I’m not always a fan of Lucky McKee. It hurts me to say that because after meeting him and hearing him speak he is a true artist who has a very specific vision and doesn’t compromise his vision for the almighty dollar. I totally respect that!! We all know McKee came on the scene with 2002’s MAY, and that’s a solid flick. It’s not the masterpiece many reviewers say it is, but it was a really well made and acted film. Then he made an entry for the Master’s of Horror series titled SICK GIRL (2006) which was one of the better films in that rather castrated series. It had a great plot and was again well acted by MAY star and frequent McKee collaborator Angela Bettis. But then he followed that up with another full length feature, THE WOODS (2006) and I really hated it. It was slow and plodding and really had no new ideas in it.
But I will always give a genre director a chance, so I was eager to see premier of THE WOMAN. Again, this isn’t gonna to be a full review of THE WOMAN. This film will definitely find an audience, but I felt I had a difficult time connecting with it. In parts it’s so goddamn S L O W. Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role of “Woman” from OFFSPRING and does another fantastic job. It’s an extremely demanding role where she has to relay all her emotions acting through her body language and a few assorted grunts and groans. What’s even more challenging is that she’s tied up for most of the film!! McIntosh does a phenomenal job. Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a sociopathic sadist and family man who lives in the boonies. On a hunting trip he comes across Woman bathing in a brook and captures her. He wants to “help” her become civilized and chains her up in a storm cellar and gets his entire family involved in her “civilization-ization”. Ok; hands down the character of Chris Cleek is one of the best modern day characters I’ve seen in a long time. He’s an absolute monster (an everyday monster) who walks around in the skin of normalcy. Sean Bridgers absolutely steals the movie with his very chilling performance that rivals the best horror performances from any time (I’d put him up against Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter any day!!). It’s a seriously fantastic performance.
Unlike OFFSPRING where the direction was good and the story sucked, here the exact opposite is going on. The story is good … great even. I’m just not always a fan of Lucky McKee’s style. There are just some scenes that are so slow I was checking my watch. I loved the characters and the plot and really loved the subtext that’s going on (there’s a huge feminist subtext going on here). But the pacing was so slow at times that I found myself wishing the film would just end. I love a good “slow burn” film, but THE WOMAN was just plain old slow at times. In another week there will be an announcement as to it’s distribution. I encourage all of you to watch THE WOMAN. I’m really curious what all your takes on it will be.
After the premier screening of THE WOMAN the cast and crew got up on stage and did and great Q & A. James Wallace of gordonandthewhale.com did a great job as emcee of the event and in controlling the questions. In attendance was director Lucky McKee, producer Andrew van den Houten, actor Sean Bridgers, and actresses Carlee Baker and 6 year old Shyla Molhusen (last night was her 6th birthday and the entire audience sang a very enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday”). There was a lot of insight into Lucky McKee as a filmmaker and his vision/view of what horror is. He told the crowd that people often ask him, after seeing one of his films, “Was that really a horror film?” He always answers, “That was my kind of horror film.” Like I said above, McKee has a very personal and unique approach to the genre, and after getting such mainstream garbage like MY SOUL TO TAKE and RED RIDING HOOD, McKee is a very welcome breath of fresh air!! I will support McKee based on his focus, passion, love, and originality for the genre.
We also got to see one of McKee’s short films, BLUE LIKE YOU, a dark-humored short if there ever was one. It stars Angela Bettis and Carlee Baker and was pretty damn funny. You’ll never look at a fork the same way again!!
All in all the opening night of the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND 2011 was a huge hit. It’s not often you get to shake the hand of the lead actor and tell him face-to-face what a terrific job he did!! So check out all the pics I took from the Red Carpet event prior to THE WOMAN screening and stay tuned for more updates.
Blast From The Past: Here’s my very short review of OFFSPRING. I wrote this review on Netflix!! Too funny.
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read too many of Jack Ketchum’s novels (I know, I know for shame). But I have seen a few of his screen adaptations (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR had me staring blindly, mouth wide open, after the final frame). I do expect that his books are waaaay better than his movies. With OFFSPRING I can see that there’s a dark, violent movie in there somewhere, but it was ruined by poor execution. I believe this flick was based on the 2nd novel Ketchum wrote about this wandering tribe of cannibals. And guess what; it felt like it. The whole movie feels like you missed something. There’s no character development (the characters all feel like they were developed in a previous movie) and the cannibal tribe just WAS. Director Andrew van den Houten never did anything with the tribe. We get their back story in a quick 5 minute summary from another character and from old newspaper articles that flash onto the screen. The whole effort felt lazy. The gore was pretty decent and the material had the potential for being really dark. So how, please tell me, can something so gory and dark be so BORING??? Do what I should have done in the first place & read the books instead. Skip this one.