Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Review: The Woman in Black

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Woman in Black poster

The Woman in Black
95 mins / Dir. James Watkins

As a ghost story, The Woman in Black is a bloody solid hour and a half of entertainment. As a horror film, it's held back by the fact that it's a Cert 12A, and that it falls into a very familiar trap in no time at all...

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The Plot: Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is a young London-based solictor sent to Yorkshire to deal with the estate of a deceased client who has left no relatives. When he arrives in the small coastal village of Crythin Gifford, the superstitious locals are on full alert, and a series of untimely deaths do nothing to lighten their mood. Kipps skepticism and nerve are both put to the test as he determines to unravel the mystery of The Woman In Black...

The The Good: What I said back at the start; It's a good ghost story. Formulaic? Sure. But it's a Hammer production of a 1983 novel which is an Edwardian (ish) ghost story, so there's not exactly a lot of new ground to cover. The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace (for the most part), with the major exposition points teased out nicely. The sets and costumes all appear to be in good order (to my untrained eye), although there's a surprising range of accents to be found in such an isolated village.

The Bad: I can't deny that there is suspense in this film, and that there are jumps. But that's largely because the audience is beaten so solidly over the head with them. If no-one's speaking and the music stops, it's like a red flag goes up telegraphing the imminent jump. The best shots are the ones where the ghost(s) are standing innocuously in the background as the camera sweeps past, unseen by the characters on-screen. There are a few of those shots, but not enough to build the suspense that way. This film would be so much better if it had stuck to creepy until the finalé, because that's when it's interesting. That said, the toys in the nursery are a bit overkill. We know they're sinister, Daniel, you don't have to set them all off at once...

The Ugly: On a personal note, I could have done without the final scene (not what happens at the end, just literally the final scene). It seemed a little saccharine for my taste and robbed the film of an end in keeping with the story. It didn't ruin the film for me, I just don't get why it's there.

Worth a punt? For me? Yes. I like the traditional structure and feel of it, which is sorely lacking from most contemporary horror. I'd have preferred more of a focus on 'the victims', but the movie would be outside of its 12A bracket then. Not that that should matter when you're trying to market this type of thing.

It's good, but there are seeds of greatness in there...


It's a 12A. Take your kid, it'll freak them the fuck out and set the bar at a decent level for ghost stories! ;)

Quick question for those who've seen it: The train at the end... there's only one line running through the village, so why does the next train arrive so quickly after the first? Just a thought.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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