We're well past the legend of Sherman's March as a bloodless ravaging by this point in history. In its place, Keeping Room shows free-ranging Union foragers (led by Sam Worthington) committing random atrocities as they close in on our heroines' farm. Once they arrive, the film becomes something like a feminist version of Straw Dogs as the women fight off the blue bellies, though not before Louise, barely recovered from a raccoon bite, is raped. Add to this terror images like horses hauling a burning coach and its dead driver, or Augusta's discovery of a friend's pasty corpse, and Keeping Room seems to be a horror movie first and foremost.
The screenplay may insist too much that gender trumps race. It seems too good, if that's really the word, to be true that Mad forgives Augusta for shooting her returned lover in the back, mistaking him for another intruder. It's true enough that Mad was ready to shoot the same man in the back until he turned to reveal himself to her, but by this point in the film, long after Augusta and Mad had exchanged angry slaps, writer and director apparently have decided that race is no longer an issue. Instead, they have Mad recall the repeated rapes she suffered while still a girl in a mysterious plantation shed. On top of that, they have Augusta execute a wounded forager who had effectively surrendered, as if she was obliged to show him no mercy after killing the other man. In a grim parody of the end of Glory the dead forager and the dead freedman are dumped into a common grave, though Mad offers a dubious Augusta a spiritual assurance that the more innocent of the two is not really in the same place as the other.