The Woman in Black

31 Dec

Director: James Watkins (2012)

woman-in-blackFrom the trailer alone, my threshold of terror looked set to be pretty low when it came to watching The Woman in Black. Wind-up toys, singing children, clowns, swampy plains prompting flashbacks of my own close encounters of the muddy kind as a child – it didn’t bode well.

Thankfully, my recompense came in the fact that I have already seen and experienced the twists and frights that The Woman in Black would bring – none of which I will be sharing here, of course. From the stage production of Susan Hill’s now iconic tale of horror rampaging its way through a desolate British village, I could see the clear potential for the story to make a fantastic classic horror film. But in the same breath, I also recognised the danger of the subtlety and slow building tension to the story’s horrifying revelation becoming polluted on the big screen. Then again, who would have though a short story could come to champion the underappreciated genre of horror theatre? It could go either way.

Winding its way through twists and tales as tight and intertwined as the perilous roads through the village, The Woman in Black casts aside the gore and the violence that is rife in the horror genre, opting instead for a taut psychological thriller, moving back to the basics of seat jumping and heart thumping. Produced by Hammer Film Productions, The Woman in Black has all the trappings of the traditional ghost story, tense music, eerie abandoned houses at the end of long drives, terrifying children, eyes through keyholes and oddly reflective misty windows – textbook but nonetheless guaranteed to have you leaping out of your seat, no matter how hard you try to resist.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer, summoned to a remote village to sort the papers of an old widow, mysteriously revered by all who hear her name mentioned. And as a consequence of his association said mysterious widow, poor Kipps soon finds himself on the wrong side of the village folk. As Kipps begins to explore the old widows house, he soon begins to realise perhaps there is something behind the ashen faces of the villagers whenever he mentions his work at Eel Marsh House… Tales of ghostly figures, missing children, suicide and death itself whisper through the mists that engulf the village – this is not your regular ghost story designed to scare away out of towners.

Effortlessly casting aside the dreaded Potter associations with ease, Radcliffe carries the film with a maturity and drama that suits the classic stylings of the story, avoiding the hysteria that too often saturates big screen horror. While it doesn’t have the same tension from the story itself as the book and the play, The Woman in Black is a happy homage to traditional frights that while not surprising, still give good scare and make for an enjoyable watch. Apart from all the clowns. That is less than enjoyable.

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