July 8, 2012

Filthy Review - The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

Hammer horror films were a staple for many fans of the genre through the 50s’, 60s’ and 70s’. For many, it was their introduction to the world of horror (myself included), the British company putting the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and even Oliver Reed firmly into the limelight. The films were gory, sexy and quite often cheesy, and more often than not they were fun and offered up a few scares. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and all other manner of ghastly ghouls were the order of the day. Hammer helped to put British horror films on the map, and when they ceased production at the end of the 1970s’ a huge space was left.

Horror movies were still made in the UK, although they were few and far between, and nowhere near as prolific as the legendary studio. So, when Hammer resurfaced in proper in the 21st century there was an air of intrigue as to what they would deliver. The new Hammer is four films in now, and so far the output has been mixed. Let Me In was the first, coming in 2010, and is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by author John Ajvide Lindqvist. This was followed by The Resident in 2011, which is probably only memorable for the fact that is starred the legendary Christopher Lee in a supporting role. Also in 2011 saw the released of the acclaimed horror flick Wake Wood, which seemed to help smooth out the bumps left by the aforementioned The Resident. This all brings us neatly to 2012s’ The Woman in Black.

Based on the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black is about Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who is grieving the loss of his wife, who is sent to a remote village to settle the estate of a woman who died there. The locals don’t want him there; they are convinced that he will just bring more trouble if he snoops about in the woman’s stately mansion. The villagers are well aware of what will happen, yet they aren’t about to reveal the sinister secret to an outsider. It isn’t too long though before Arthur comes into contact with the terrifying woman in black.

The Woman in Black, aside from being the first feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe since the Harry Potter movies, is a good old-fashioned scary ghost story. The emphasis here is on slow reveals, a sense of imposing dread and slow drawn-out scare scenes. There are scenes that will make you jump, yet the more impressive moments are the scenes where the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck when director James Watkins effectively ratchets up the tension.

There are many familiar elements here to other horror movies, faces in windows, insular locals etc. yet the film as a whole is very well done. Daniel Radcliffe plays the part of Arthur well, and is ably supported by the excellent Ciaran Hinds, who plays his guide and local dignitary. Probably the best performance though is by Liz White, who as Jennet, or the woman in black, is never on-screen for too long and is only ever revealed is short takes, but gives a scary performance in the sinister title role.

Visually, The Woman in Black looks terrific, the palette is of a washed out, almost black and white, look. The bright colors are few and far between; instead the muted colors help to emphasize the ghostly feel of the movie.

James Watkins previous movie was the visceral and violent Eden Lake in 2008, so The Woman in Black is a complete contrast in tone and feel, although both are still horror movies. However, even though The Woman in Black is rated PG-13 there are still one or two disturbing scenes, involving children, which may surprise some viewers. For the most part though, The Woman in Black is a very good ghost story with the focus being very much on the scares.
Included on the DVD release is an audio commentary from James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman, Inside the Perfect Thriller: Making The Woman in Black and No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps.

So, now the new Hammer is four films to the good and The Woman in Black is definitely one of the best of the new batch. If chills are your preference, over gore and bloodshed, you could do a lot worse than to check out this rather good horror yarn.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice review! I think the best ghost stories are old fashioned! I have been waiting for a major motion picture to come out that stars Radcliff not Harry Potter and I was not disappointed. I travel on a regular basis on business for Dish which takes me away from the theaters but who wants to spend such a high dollar amount anyway? Subscribing to Blockbuster @Home, as always been a constant source of distractions; works perfectly when I'm in situations as I'm in now, where I'm bored from a missed connection. Now that I have seen Radcliff's potential as an actor: After the second film, I'll embark on the Potter franchise to enjoy the evolution of the talented Mr. Radcliff.