June 5, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Anton Sigurdsson
Culture Representation: Taking place in Florida, the horror flick “Women” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A police detective tries to solve the mystery of a serial kidnapper who has been abducting young women to force them into his own personal harem.
Culture Audience: “Women” will appeal primarily to people who like watching stupid exploitation horror films that degrade women.
Ever get the feeling that some movies were made only so the filmmakers could do misogynistic and exploitative torture scenes? The horror flick “Women” (written and directed by Anton Sigurdsson) is one of those garbage movies. The reason why it’s obvious this is a despicable “torture porn” movie is because no real thought went into the “crime solving” aspect of the story. The movie puts most of its energy into the scenes where women are humiliated, sexually assaulted and tortured. And these scenes are filmed with a sadistic glee that reeks of female-hating sexism.
“Women” is just pure trash that’s masquerading as a thriller. There’s nothing thrilling about this brain-dead time-waster that seems to have as much contempt for viewers with basic common sense as it does for the idea that a horror film should actually be scary. It’s yet another unimaginative “serial rapist/kidnapper/killer on the loose” story that throws in a “good cop” character as filler to stretch out the film to make it look like some kind of intriguing police investigation. It’s not. And it doesn’t help that the acting in this movie is bottom-of-the barrel awful.
The police detective in this story (who unrealistically does all the legwork himself) is named Detective Hawk (played by Adam Dorsey), who works somewhere in Florida. The only city in Florida that’s mentioned in the movie is Interlachen, where one of the murder victims was last seen. This murder victim’s name was Linda Bridges, whose mutilated and decomposed body has been found in a car trunk at a junkyard in the beginning of the movie.
Detective Hawk is the lead investigator on the case, and he is at the junkyard where the body was found. A first responder at the scene estimates that the body has been in the car trunk for about a month. As an example of how little the filmmakers care about the police investigation and the Detective Hawk character, they never bother to give this detective a first name.
The witness who discovered the body and called the police is a heroin addict named Norma (played by Heather Fusari), who swears that she knows nothing about how or why the dead woman got killed and ended up in the car trunk. Detective Hawk soon finds out that the murder victim Linda Bridges and a local missing woman named Jennifer Liza Collins have something in common.
Both women mailed notes to their family members with the exact same wording, except for the name signed at the end. Each note was written in each woman’s own handwriting and had this message: “The colors of the world are so vibrant. I love you all. Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry. I’m safe and sound. Stop looking for me!”
Well, Linda sure isn’t safe and sound. She’s dead by murder. As for Jennifer, who’s classified as a missing person, Detective Hawk finds out from Jennifer’s sister Rose (played by Kylie Delre) that Jennifer might have written the note, but someone else came up with the words, because Jennifer hated her middle name Liza and wouldn’t realistically sign her middle name in any message. Jennifer’s sister says that Jennifer wanted the American Dream and was most likely kidnapped.
Because of these nearly identical notes and because Jennifer and Linda are both young white women, Detective Hawk comes up with the most predictable profile theory that the same person is responsible for what happened to Linda and Jennifer: a white male loner who lives in the area. “Women” has absolutely no interest in keeping viewers guessing about who the culprit is because it’s revealed before the movie is even half over. It’s also revealed in the movie’s trailer.
The psycho is a university sociology professor named Bradley Gilmore (stiffly played by Michael Simon Hall), who comes from a wealthy family. Bradley has an obsession with collecting pretty young women to be in a “Stepford Wives” situation, where they do his bidding while they are held captive in his large home. Anyone who tries to escape will be murdered.
It should come as no surprise that missing person Jennifer (played by Anna Marie Dobbins) is one of Bradley’s victims. She’s been brainwashed and emotionally beaten down to the point that she goes along with whatever Bradley wants. And what Bradley wants is to kidnap another young woman to be part of this twisted harem.
This next victim is Hailey (played by Anna Maiche), who works as a sales clerk at a clothing boutique. Bradley comes into the store one evening right before it closes and says that he’s looking for something that he can give as a gift for his wife. Bradley and Hailey are in the store alone. And when it gets past closing time, Hailey mentions with dismay that she’s missed the last bus to go home.
Bradley already seems to know this because he was obviously stalking Hailey and knew her routine, although this stalking is not shown in the movie. He offers her a ride home. And she says yes because she knows him as a professor at the university she attends, and that’s why she automatically trusts him.
When they get to Hailey’s place, Bradley asks to use the bathroom. And she foolishly lets him inside. After coming out of the bathroom, he leaves the apartment but then comes back seconds later and asks to be let back inside because he said he left his phone in the bathroom. You know what happens next. Hailey is kidnapped and the rest of the movie is a series of scenes with Hailey being tortured, raped and getting other physical assaults by Bradley.
One method of torture that Hailey endures is that she’s bound and gagged to a chair and forced to listen to high-pitched screeching noises at full volume while wearing headphones. This scenario is repeated enough times that it becomes moronically gratuitous. Jennifer is essentially Bradley’s watchdog who repeatedly warns Hailey that Hailey will be killed if she tries to escape.
Bradley has surveillance cameras in the house, including the bedroom where Jennifer and Hailey spend most of their time in captivity. But ludicrously, in one part of the movie, Jennifer (whose allegiance to Bradley starts to crumble) and Hailey plan their escape and talk about the details out loud, even though they know that they’re being filmed. Of course, this plot hole is never explained because there’s no explaining this type of horrible screenwriting.
The production design for this movie looks laughably unprofessional in a scene where Hailey discovers that a vent in the bedroom leads to a secret passageway tunnel. But when she goes in the “tunnel,” it actually looks like she’s in a portable plastic tube, not a real tunnel inside a building. There are amateur home videos that look better than this trashy movie.
“Women” makes a very superficial attempt to give Detective Hawk a backstory, by showing him in a Co-Dependent Anonymous meeting with people who admittedly enable loved ones with addiction problems. The drug addict/alcoholic in Detective Hawk’s family is his mother Mandy (played by Cindy Hogan), who’s a complete mess when he goes to visit her or talks to her on the phone. In his support group, Detective Hawk says that he’s divorced and that he moved back to his hometown to take care of his mother.
The movie has an odd tangent to Detective Hawk’s personal story because he confides in his support group that his sister (played by Susanna Matza, in a flashback) was a heroin addict who went missing, but he found out that she’s dead. However, Detective Hawk won’t tell his mother about this death because he’s afraid she’ll have a complete breakdown. And so, he keeps lying to his mother by telling her that he’s still looking for his “missing” sister.
What does this story about a cop who cruelly lies to his mother about the death of her daughter have to do with the psycho killer/kidnapper? Absolutely nothing. It’s just more misogyny on display.
Hailey is reported missing. And when Detective Hawk finds out that Hailey, Jennifer and Liza all went to the same university, he does some digging on the school’s faculty and staff and finds out that Bradley has a history of being arrested for rape. The charges were dropped because he paid off the women who accused him of rape.
When Detective Hawk inevitably shows up at Bradley’s home to investigate and interview him, Bradley unsurprisingly denies anything to do with the Linda’s death and the disappearances of Jennifer and Hailey. But then, Bradley bizarrely claims that he has a wife and that they’ve been happily married for 31 years.
It’s a lie that’s easily exposed by Detective Hawk, who finds out that Bradley has never been married. But that lie isn’t enough to get a search warrant. And you know what that means in a dumb movie like this one: Detective Hawk is going to sneak into Bradley’s house by himself without a warrant.
There are some “kidnapping and torture” horror movies that are truly terrifying, but “Women” is just idiotic and dull in every possible way. It’s no secret that the types of movies that revel in showing women being tortured and degraded in gratuitous ways are almost always written and directed by men who are exposing their misogyny for the world to see. Let this despicable movie be an example of the exploitative, sexist and untalented filmmakers to avoid if you care about quality filmmaking.
Gravitas Ventures released “Women” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on May 28, 2021.