I’ve been seeng this movie pop up a lot on my Netflix feed recently. I can see why, I love horror and the “feral person coming back to civilization” (i.e. Mama) is a trope I often love to watch play out. It’s a weird horror theme that I love.
That being said, this movie is freaking bizarre. It goes beyond the feral-child trope and bring abuse, manipulation and emotional trauma into the equation. It’s so ungodly normal.
The gist: We open with a family, modern homesteader types with a lawyer dad and a stay-at-home mom. Actually no, that’s a lie. We open with dream-like shots of a feral woman in the woods, caked in mud and minding her own darn business.
The dad, who’s apparently a hunter, ogles the feral women trough his lens and decides to capture her. We soon learn that he’s not only a perv, but also an abusive man’s man. There’s an air of male entitlement in their household, actually. Which translates to no one knowing what to do when this crazy patriarch shows them the feral woman he’s strung up in the basement with the goal of “civilizing” her.
The wife clearly knows this is wrong. The oldest daughter’s clearly distraught, but feels trapped. The son basically sees the feral woman as less than human. But the youngest daughter is the most interesting to watch. She’s too young to realize how f*cked up it it to chain a woman to the wall in your cellar, but sees fit to play music for the feral woman’s enjoyment. She’s too innocent to realize it’s wrong, but not so innocent to not ask about the woman’s well-being. It’s an interesting portrait of abuse and groupthink. It’s also dangerously close to the our-little-secret atmosphere of real dysfunctional families.
What I “learned”: I heard once that every horror movie represents the fears of the time it was made. This movie is a lot like Excision in that the main “villain” is female, but you still root for her to triumph over her horrible surroundings. Does this represent a fear of feminism, I wonder? Or maybe a fear of what happens when women’s voices are restricted in the first place? I’m puzzling over that myself, but it’s certainly an interesting trend. I even saw it in Sinister, wherein the family’s safety only improved when the husband listened to the wife and everyone started paying attention to the creepy little girl.
See this movie if you like: Villains that are realistic. I thoroughly believe that the horrible dad Chris (played with Will Ferrell/Dad-ish charm by Sean Bridgers) could exist somewhere out there. A successful man, a loyal wife who’s passive but skilled in traditional household chores, three kids… holy cow, is this movie decrying the cult of new domesticity? How relevant!
Also, this movie uses sexy walking/bow-chicka-wow-wow music in the creepiest way possible. It’s kinda funny, but it also shows you just how objectifying of women Chris is. It’s guaranteed to weird you out, as it should.
Avoid this movie if: You don’t go into cannibalism-themed horror. There are several instances of it in this movie, mostly of the time used with brightly colored blood and organs. But still, proceed with caution if that’s your hangup.
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