Saturday, August 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in Black (2012) directed by James Watkins

MPAA rating


ZPAA rating

13 and up, just like the MPAA says

Gore level

4 out of 10--Some dessicated corpses; bloody vomit; images of a hung woman; dead bodies (mostly children) walking around; live person burning.

Other offensive content

Menace to children throughout; a lot of jump scenes; sustained mood of terror, i.e. the whole film; harsh treatment between siblings; ghosts; general acceptance of spiritualism.

How much zombie mythology/content

No zombies here, just ghosts.

How much fun

This movie is a great example of a "chiller" (I say this because I had goose bumps at least six times) and of a haunted house movie. If you like that kind of entertainment (like I do), it's a lot of fun.

Synopsis & Review

Ghost stories are quite popular in England, probably because the weather and the winters give an optimal spooky atmosphere. The Woman in Black is just such a ghost story. It was first a novel, then made into a TV movie, a stage play, and two radio dramas before the release of this cinema version (which I saw on DVD).

The story follows Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), a young, widowed lawyer who has a four-year old son. He is still troubled by the loss of his wife. That has affected his work. The law firm sends him off to the North to settle the estate of Alice Drablow. She lived in Eel Marsh House at the end of Nine Lives Causeway. The causeway is only navigable at low tide. The house is full of paperwork that needs sorting to ensure the law firm's copy of her will is indeed the current one. This is Kipps last chance to prove he is serious about working for the firm. If he does not do well, he will be fired.

He takes a train up to the town of Crynith Gifford. He meets a local man, Samuel Daily, who is quite rich (he owns the only car for miles and miles) and is friendly enough. The rest of the town is not so friendly because of the house's bad history and the local legend of the Woman in Black. She is mostly seen either by the house or on the causeway, but occasionally in town. Whenever she is seen, soon thereafter a child dies. Typically the death is a quite horrible one. Naturally the townfolk don't want anyone around the house. Kipps insists on going (to keep his job). As he researches through the papers, he uncovers information about the Woman in Black. Oh yeah, and strange noises and apparitions start happening too. And his son is supposed to come up on the weekend for a holiday!

The movie centers on Kipps. It follows his investigation of the paperwork just enough to reveal the identity and motives of the Woman in Black. His character is well developed. His motives for staying are sensible enough and he is likeable enough that the viewer actually cares what happens to him. Developing an intelligent, sympathetic main character is critical in this type of movie. Radcliffe gives a great performance, subtle and nuanced without hysterics. He makes it more chilling.

Much of the film shows him wandering through the house trying to look around corners for what just made that noise or what he just saw out of the corner of his eye. Plenty of cobwebs, dark corners, and creepy children's toys are made even more ominous by the low-key but highly evocative score. The atmosphere is great and delivers plenty of goosebumps. The story is interesting enough and the various twists are only occasionally predictable and always effective.

The Woman in Black is a classic example of a haunted house movie, ranking with the best in that genre (The Uninvited, The Haunting, and The Changeling being the best).

Movie Trailer

1 comment:

  1. I have had a hard time understanding since "Women in Black" came out, why so many critics dislike this movie. My friend, who also happens to work with me at Dish, saw this with me, and we both loved it. She is a big Daniel Radcliff fan; and I love ghost stories, but I have not seen Radcliff in any movies yet. Having seen just how talented Radcliff truly is, I've decided I need to see the Harry Potter series so I can understand how this actor is so good. I have been using Blockbuster @Home to get my movies streamed to my TV; I think this method will be perfect for having as Harry Potter marathon with my friend.