The Woman in Black (2012)
Directed By: James Watkins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Jessica Raine, Liz White
Subgenre: Ghosts and Haunted Houses
Synopsis: Arthur Kipps, a widower and lawyer in the early 1900s, must handle the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drabow, owner of the Eel Marsh House. Kipps begins to hear noises in the house and sees a mysterious woman dressed in black, which seems to lead to the death of some children in town.
Thoughts: Daniel Radcliffe has a pretty steep hill to climb to get away from the role that made him one of the most recognizable characters in the history of film. Starring in a creepy ghost story from Hammer Films is a great start in my opinion.
Daniel Radcliffe does an amicable job as Kipps, the lawyer that must complete this task or risk losing his job. It is difficult for him to get away from, but I did see bits of Harry Potter in his character. The inner conflict and struggles of Kipps parallel Potter in many ways. On the same note, there was more than once that I was reminded of a young Peter Cushing when Radcliffe was on screen. Much of that can be attributed to the physical similarities and the fact that this was a Hammer Production, but I think the comparison is valid.
There are some basic tenants that a ghost story needs to be effective. The story needs to be compelling, the atmosphere must be creepy, and the ghost itself should be frightening. I think The Woman in Black covers all those areas.
While the story does start out slowly, it really pulls you in once it gets going. As a parent, I can say that there is not much more unsettling than the death of a child. It chills a parent to the bone, and that had me on edge from the very beginning. The atmosphere and locale are also a very important part of the movie. The town takes place in rural England along the coastline, so it feels dark and dreary, and that is before you even get to the Eel Marsh House. The house sits in solitude on an island, accessible only by a road that the tide covers at times. It has been sitting vacant, so it has the typical cobwebs and furniture coverings you expect to find. One of the creepiest things you will see in the entire house is the toys. I’m not sure where they dug those wind-up toys from, but if kids in that era played with those things, I can’t imagine them getting a full night’s sleep.
Now, the titular Woman on Black really was scary. Horror fans have been saturated with ghost stories the last ten years or so with the tidal wave of Asian Horror and the inevitable American remakes, but I think this was one of the scariest I have seen since Ju-On. Some of the noises the ghost makes here remind me of Ju-On and serve to unsettle the viewer (at least this one.) There are a few false jump scares, which makes the legitimate ones all the more effective.
I did see this in a very full theatre, which is a mixed bag. At times, the crowd was a little rambunctious, but there is something to be said about being scared with a large group of people. The movie was very well received, and actually got an ovation during the credits, which I don’t see very often. I suggest going to see this, it really is one of the better horror movies I have seen in recent years.