Sue and I finally got to the theater this week to see The Woman In Black…
Hammer films have begun to make a resurgence. A staple of the mid-50s through to the 70s, they brought some classic horror films to light, including the Curse of Frankenstein which I recently watched, as well as The Horror of Dracula, which is currently in my bedroom’s dvd player.
They have recently begun reestablishing themselves in the realm of horror films most notably with the much un-needed but still good English language version of Let The Right One In, Let Me In.
The Woman In Black is their most recent effort, adapted from Susan Hill’s 1989 novel.
The film is moody and atmospheric, and is fitted with all the trappings one would expect of a traditional ghost story from the English countryside – an odd town that doesn’t invite you to stay, an imposing, deserted manor, creepy toys, moving shadows, dark figures, empty motion-filled rocking chairs, jiggling doorknobs, and a curse.
Daniel Radcliffe, fresh from growing up as the Boy Who Lived in the Harry Potter series, takes on a new screen role. A widowed lawyer, Arthur Kipps, is a father to a lone son, who is given the assignment of visiting a remote English town to put a deceased woman’s things in order.
On arriving in the town, he is practically refused lodging at the local inn, and the local lawyer, who is meant to be his contact, urges him to leave the moment he arrives.
As Arthur makes his way to the deserted and remote Eel Marsh Manor, connected to the town by a causeway that is at the mercy of the tides, all the local children are squirreled away from him.
Once at Eel Manor, things begin to get very creepy. He sees things he can’t explain, and vanishing figures as well as a couple of jump scares brought on by natural causes.
The film works incredibly well, showing that supernatural thrillers do not have to dwell on gore and violence. Mood, shadows in atmosphere, as expected fire the imagination and of course the things that we conjure in our minds tend to be spookier than those that are shown exposed to the light.
Also, there only a few moments when CG was put to use, the rest of the film’s spooks and scares were all done practically, which of course adds to the realism (?) of the ghost story.
As Arthur works, at first to only make sure the late woman’s effects are in order, but then to solve the mystery that he is caught up in, children begin to die around the village.
The film is incredibly spooky, and couched in the spiritualist movement that was the fashion of the day, with possession, channeling and auto-writing playing a role.
Joining Arthur on his journey is Sam Daily, played by a too under-used actor (at least on this side of the pond), the wonderful Ciarán Hinds. Sam has lost his son to the Woman In Black, and his wife is close to mad believing she channels the lost boy.
The only complaint I did have for the film was the use of a musical sting to heighten a scare or a jump. I honestly feel that it didn’t need to be done, the film would’ve worked without it. It was much more interesting when you caught a shadow moving in a mirror, and scrunching down in your seat as you wondered what was going to happen next.
While the film may not appeal to all movie goers, I think that if you know going in, that it’s supposed to be an old-fashioned ghost story, you’ll truly get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
It’ll be interesting to see what Mr. Radcliffe does next, and what this new incarnation of Hammer films will bring us next…