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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Top customer reviews
With this film, I agree with a lot of the four-star-rating comments, but I think this film moved along way too slowly, for one. Secondly, I love large, scary old houses, and since this house was actually one of the main "characters" in the film, I was very disappointed for one reason - the film was shot WAY TOO DARK, so that you could hardly enjoy or even see in most scenes what the layout of the house was like.
Yes, I understand, most of the movie, he's traipsing around the house with only a tiny candle and an axe, but dear god, people! There are things such as The Red Camera that exist and can make the darkest rooms visible! Darkly shot films can be effective and do have their place in cinema, but not when I'm getting a headache trying to see what little black shadow in a sea of black just flickered. For me, this effort in trying so hard to see through this dark lens turns into boredom and I admit I have watched this movie probably 3 times because I kept falling asleep.
I am disappointed because I really thought for once in a long time, I could be watching a very good ghost story. The ending was nice, so I am glad I finally pushed through the entire film, but the rest was just foreboding music, and vague figures and a bunch of screaming. 3 Stars for "It's Okay" is bordering the rather generous…..
As other reviewers have noted, this adaptation of the popular novel and play steers clear of "slasher" stunts (guts and gore) and instead focuses on atmospherics. Certainly the production design is decidedly Victorian Gothic, and the general tone is moody and disquieting. As Arthur Kipps, a young widower swept up in a haunted house, really a haunted village, mystery, Daniel Radcliffe acquits himself pretty well. His strongest scenes are those in which he has no dialogue. I don't mean that as a backhanded compliment; he shows an expressiveness through his body language that makes speech unnecessary. The rest of the cast is also solid.
This film is not consistently sure-footed. Unlike, say, "The Sixth Sense," a ghost movie that always seems to know what its doing, "The Woman in Black" sometimes seems to toss out scares just for the heck of it, and some of them are predictable. A really rigorous analysis of the plot would probably reveal some holes and thematic inconsistencies. On the other hand, this IS a ghost movie. How demanding should we be? Particularly when the ending (again as other reviewers have remarked) manages to be ingenious, shocking, and ambiguous all at once.
The director said that although he set the film in Victorian England, he didn't want it to have a period feel; only a period look. To that end the dialogue is, depending on one's view, either jarringly or refreshingly modern. This is taken to a rather comical extreme when a woman is referred to in writing as "Ms." a prefix that didn't come into use until decades later. (It would be like referring to "Ms. Jane Austen.")
This edition includes three bonus features: a making-of featurette, a piece on Radcliffe, and audio commentary with the director and the screenwriter. The making-of is short and moderately interesting; the Radcliffe bit is worthwhile to hear some of his insights on the character (and why on earth he stayed in that house, for goodness' sake!), but the commentary is a disappointment, consisting mostly of self-congratulations and the filmmakers "wowing" over their own creation.
But for all the minor criticisms, I certainly recommend this for anyone who likes old-fashioned spooky stories without the gore and profanity that mark modern horror.
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with a surprise ending.Read more