The Woman in Black
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Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), 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.
Fans of classically structured haunted house/ghost stories will relish the skillfully unnerving chain of events in The Woman in Black, whether or not they're fans of Harry Potter. The good new is that Daniel Radcliffe leaves Harry behind for good in his first post-Potter role. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor tasked with resolving the affairs of a recently deceased woman and her brooding estate in the gloom of the remote Victorian England-era village of Crythin Gifford. The mood is melancholic all around, starting with Kipps himself, who lost his wife to childbirth a few years earlier. His employer has had just about enough of his moping about and gives him the assignment as a last resort to save his job. When he arrives in the small village, the icy response he receives does not bode well for successful completion of his mission. All the townspeople want him gone, and possibly for good reason. Many of their children have died mysteriously gruesome deaths that they blame on the titular black-clad woman whose own child was tragically sucked to his death in the muck surrounding her seaside mansion. This new stranger who wants to unearth the deadly secrets trapped in the decrepit old house is a threat they cannot abide, and sure enough the deaths keep on coming as he delves deeper into the dark recesses of the house and the history of its ghostly occupant. There are scares aplenty in The Woman in Black, and they come from a genuineness that relies on creep-outs rather than gross-outs. Faces in windows, apparitions barely there, slow-building moodiness that suddenly erupts into a silent scream (or sometimes not so silent) make for an extremely effective and often terribly unnerving atmosphere of dread. The movie comes with several impressive pedigrees as well. It's based on a popular novel published in the early '80s, which was also adapted into a long-running hit play. The movie additionally resurrects the Hammer Films brand, an esteemed British production company that churned out moody and distinctive horror films and exploitive psycho-thrillers for decades in the mid 20th century. Indeed, the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee seems to lurk around every dusty, cobwebbed corner in The Woman in Black, right behind the slamming doors and only just glimpsed in the flickering candlelight. Radcliffe is perfect for the role of a heartbroken man whose rationality is stretched to the point of no return by the things he may or may not be seeing. Several strong supporting performances add to the gravitas, especially Ciarán Hinds as a kindred soul and father figure to Kipps, and perhaps the only other rational man in Crythin Gifford. But then rationality has almost nothing to do with the disquieting spirit of this authentically enigmatic, finely understated and efficiently chilling return to classic horror. --Ted Fry
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The nutshell view on this is that our protagonist is sent off to a spooky house to tidy up some probate paperwork after the death of the house's last inhabitant. When he arrives, the townspeople do everything in their power to get rid of him and refuse to explain why they're acting so oddly. The rest is left as exploration for the prospective watcher.
To the positive, the imagery in the movie is, at times, extremely creepy. At various points old toys are shown and I found these delightful for their historical background and as a motif for the film. Lots of wonderful images in this movie. Further, the whole story didn't succumb to the standard pattern you typically see in these movies. I can't really say much more without spoiling it but suffice to say that you don't get what you expect in the end and the final twist is shocking and delightful.
To the negative, many of the horror details were very cliche: lots of doorknobs turning and when the door is opened nobody is there, briefly glimpsed faces in mirrors or in windows and mysterious shadows. This is all standard horror movie fluff and while well done is was just like every other horror movie in the world.
In summary, this movie is heavy on imagery, setting and narrative arc but many of the details are rather blah. As horror movies go it was high on my list simply because it didn't run the usual course of 'good, then bad, then even more bad, then better, then REALLY bad, then yay, rainbows and unicorns!'
PS: I hope my review was helpful. If it was not, then please let me know what I left out that you’d want to know. I always aim to improve.
This was a pretty cool watch. I thought I'd check it out before watching the recently released, The Woman In Black 2... And I am glad I did. Watch this, it's worth the price of a rental.
One hopes some enterprising director mounts a film of Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" for him. And would not Mr Radcliffe make an ideal Hamlet? Or as the star of a biographical film of Paul Morphy...
Enveloped in a romantic sadness, with beautiful cinematography, this is the finest Gothic-horror film I have seen in quite some time, with an extraordinary apotheosis, and a fine score from Marco Beltrami. It reinforces the astonishing potential of the cinema, so seldom realized.