[Review] The Woman in Black


A young widowed solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), travels to a remote town to settle the estate of a large manor, Eel Marsh House.  Upon arrival, he’s treated coldly by many of the locals with the exception of Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds).  Arthur soon discovers that many of the town’s children are dying from unusual circumstances and that it may be due to a vengeful ghost dressed in black that used to reside at the house.

I like scary movies and can pretty much handle watching them alone in the dark, by myself.  This one, though, is pretty spooky.  Things appear behind our main protagonist or apparitions’ll pop at you.  It’s a scary movie so that’s what I would expect to see.

However, I watched half at about 3 in the morning and just couldn’t finish it until several hours later, way after the sun rose.  It was the creepy dolls that did it.  I don’t do well with creepy dolls and the house is littered with them.  Especially those Victorian and Edwardian era dolls.

This is an important movie for Daniel Radcliffe.  Can he move beyond that image of Harry Potter?  It was a bit hard for me to imagine him as a widowed father in this movie because he’s quite short in stature but in close ups, you’re more focused on his matured face so I think he could outgrow that image eventually.

The story is originally from a fictional novel by Susan Hill and it was even adapted for the stage.  I can’t speak about them because I have read the book or seen the play but the movie is your run-of-the-mill classic horror story where a vengeful ghost terrorizes the townspeople.  The tragedy of it all is that the children’s lives are at stake in the town.  It’s not like you haven’t heard this story before but it didn’t feel entirely clichéd here.

In some ways the story felt a bit like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  The town is strange, there’s something that everyone else is privy to and the main protagonist is on the outside, looking in.  Combined with that dynamic, the time period and the cinematography, the movie did entertain.

I think the measure of a good horror movie is the atmosphere.  The background become characters in their own right and this movie does no different.  It concentrated on the foggy landscapes, dimly lit scenes, the various props at the house, sounds and quick editing to terrorize you.  The foggy landscapes and dimly lit scenes reminds you of The Others.  Even though it was the daytime, the interior of the manor and the grounds feel dark and heavy.

Unfortunately, the movie relied too heavily on the loud shriek of the ghost to make you jump.  Well it does the job for me anyways.  Most of the lines are said pretty quietly that I had to strain my ears to listen and then the sudden scream of the ghost were way too loud for my ears to withstand it.  It’s okay if you do it once or twice, but more than that doesn’t seem like you have enough faith in story itself.

I think part of the merit of this movie is that there were little things that were unexpected.  I immediately distrusted Mr. Daily as he was the only person who was kind to Arthur.  With a not-so-sane wife, Elisabeth (Janet McTeer), and the fact that they also lost their own son, I almost thought Mr. Daily was somehow involved with the horrible history at Eel Marsh House.  Actually he sorta is but then again the whole town is.  However, I’ll leave it to you to figure out how.

You have to expect a bittersweet ending to the film.  A true classic horror story never ends completely well and this one is no different.  The ending seems to fit the character of Arthur.  The movie as a whole gives a good scare for those that can take it and that even likes horror movies.  If you’re looking for a horror movie that breaks the mold, this isn’t it.



One thought on “[Review] The Woman in Black

  1. I just watched this the other day and I agree with your thoughts on it. I liked the ghostly atmosphere and so it reminded me also of The Others. I love spooky mansions and foggy sets.
    The scares were a bit too light for me to be frightened but there were plenty of scenes that got me jumpy.
    I think that Daniel Radcliffe did a solid job. I was surprised to find out that his character is supposed to be a father, thinking that I couldn’t buy it, but eventually I found him belivable.
    But I wasn’t all too satisfied with the ending. It was predictable and seemed a bit of an easy fix to me. But that may just be me.


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