Novel written by Susan Hill
Screenplay by Jane Goldman
Directed by James Watkins
Arthur Kipps, a widowed lawyer whose grief has put his career in jeopardy, is sent to a remote village to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased eccentric. But upon his arrival, it soon becomes clear that everyone in the town is keeping a deadly secret. Although the townspeople try to keep Kipps from learning their tragic history, he soon discovers that the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost…and no one, not even the children, are safe from her vengeance.
The Woman in Black is a very enjoyable film. I’m not basing that on the amount of teenage girls that screamed throughout the movie, but on it’s horror merit. I’m a sucker for a good old fashioned ghost story, and this one delivers.
Where some movies rely on blood and gore to deliver shocks, this one depends on a creepy, Gothic sensibility to get it’s point across. You couldn’t find a better location if you tried. Isolated from the surrounding villages by a long and winding road as well as high tides, the haunted English manor may as well share the credits as an actor.
The origin of the woman in black is based on the usual ghostly trauma: mental illness, loss of a child, suicide, and complete unforgiveness. As Kripps inches closer to the truth, the growing darkness inches closer as well. This film has a tremendous and almost suffocating sense of dread that blankets the viewer. The gloomy, grey, and rainy day didn’t end when I walked into the theater, it was there on the screen as well. The shroud of darkness is nearly impenetrable at times, giving me a few starts as we watched our protagonist react to every supernatural manifestation during his stay.
Radcliffe may seem a little stiff in his role as Kripps, but I really didn’t expect anything else from an English man set in this role. His performance mirrors the dark and evil theme of the film. The director uses some cheap and easy scares to set the theme. Birds fly out of fireplaces unexpectedly, creepy wind-up toys lurch to life, etc. When it comes time for the real terror, and I assure you, there are grand moments of terror, the film holds nothing back.
If you like your horror movies wrapped up with complete closure and happy endings, you’ll be disappointed. While there is a sense of closure and acceptance at the end, this is not a traditional happy ending by any stretch of the imagination.
If you have two hours and five bucks to spare, this is so worth the time and effort. It’s refreshing to see contemporary horror films that stay true to their source material and feel they have a strong enough story to tell it the way it should be, and without blood-splattered scenes. The Woman in Black succeeds where similar films have failed.
This is a great use of post-Potter Radcliffe. Go check it out and thank the horror gods that 2012 is throwing so much at us.