A Woman Scorned Review
A Woman Scorned
is one of those mid-nineties erotic thrillers which once achieved ubiquity in the UK thanks to Channel Five’s late night programmers. Since then they’ve dwindled back into obscurity only occasionally returning to the surface thanks to Linda Ruth Williams’ academic dissections. Nonetheless A Woman Scorned has recently come to DVD in the UK – for “the first time” proudly announces the sleeve – and stands as one of the subgenre’s main examples. It does, after all, star one of the erotic thriller’s mainstays in the form of Shannon Tweed and did, after all, spawn a sequel. Indeed, on its own trashy terms it’s certainly proficient, perhaps even acceptable.
That said, this is the kind of film which you can make sound far more interesting than it actually is. I could, for example, describe it as a cross between Pasolini’s Theorem (or Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q if you require a more recent picture) and The Stepfather, that gem of an eighties’ B-movie which offered Terry O’Quinn a meaty role long before Lost. In other words we have Tweed infiltrating a cosy middle class family existence, seducing all of its members and enacting psycho-killer revenge. Of course, a trashy erotic thriller is never quite going to live up to a Pasolini or even a taut Terry O’Quinn vehicle, but the outline remains true: Tweed’s husband commits suicide owing to his inability to survive in the boardroom jungle and so she takes it out on whom she perceives to be the villain of the piece, a new addition (and indeed new partner) in the firm. Thus his family occupy her psychotic attentions for the duration – even his token Hispanic maid, whilst a pair of cockatiels get the equivalent to a Fatal Attraction bunny boil.
What’s perhaps missing from this description is the sheer ludicrousness of it all. Forget psychological motivation, A Woman Scorned is a film without logical motivations. Pre-suicide Tweed has simple middle class needs (“What I want is a home and a family”) and is shocked at – but goes through with – her soon-to-be-late husband’s suggestion that she should whore herself as an aid to his progress up the promotional ladder. And yet her revenge scheme is seemingly the work of someone completely different. She immediately possesses the acumen to inveigle herself into the family as a mock tutor, demonstrates a terrific grasp of the French language, is a master seductress who willingly sleeps with her victims on a number of occasions, and even makes for a damned fine lipstick lesbian. The ending meanwhile, which I won’t spoil, continues this line of sheer ridiculousness if not ten times more so.
Yet whilst it’s easy to mock, it’s also hard to admit that A Woman Scorned doesn’t entertain. Andrew Sevens' direction remains proficient – without going either above or below that register – and the acting is of that vaguely acceptable cable-soap standard which never really impresses but does at least do the job. (And of course all of the characters are complete cut-outs; the moody teenage son even listens to anonymous rock guitar solos whenever he’s out in his cherry red sports car.) The big failing is that you never feel as though its makers have realised the true potential which A Woman Scorned holds. Essentially it’s all just that little bit too serious for its own good and as such the ripeness for satire is completely overlooked. Early on we witness Tweed’s husband driving around with a 2LTL2LT number plate, which at least raises some hopes of the occasional laugh up its sleeve, but ultimately it’s straight-laced all the way through. Guilty pleasures only then, though in the right frame of mind these may prove to be perfectly sufficient.
Hardly surprisingly A Woman Scorned’s UK DVD release is something of a non-starter. Region 0 encoded the disc goes for a complete lack of extras and offers only the most basic of presentations. The image comes in a ratio of 4:3 (though this may very well be the correct one – certainly, there don’t appear to be any signs of cropping or open-matte) and looks decidedly shoddy. Movements often appear blurred, edges are often ill defined and the whole thing has that softened video-like appearance. As for the soundtrack here we find a DD2.0 offering (which, again, seems likely to be the intended choice) which never rises above the level of the merely okay. Of course, it only has banal dialogue to contend with, but there’s still the impression, as with that of the picture quality, that it could be far crisper and just that little bit cleaner.