Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Woman In Black

Subtle Ghost Story Scares

Rated: R Thematic material and violence/disturbing images.
Release Date: February 3, 2012
Runtime: 1 hr 35 min

Director: James Watkins
Writers: Susan Hill (novel), Jane Goldman
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Sophie Stickey, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds

SYNOPSIS: A young lawyer travels to the remote village of Crythin Gifford to deal with the closing of the estate of a reclusive deceased widow. Shunned by the villagers, he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the village's children.

REVIEW: Author Susan Hill wrote the thriller "The Woman in Black" in 1983 about a vengeful ghost that haunts the small English town of Crythin Gifford, appearing as a warning before the death of the town's children. Adapted in a still-running stage play and a TV movie in 1989, Eden Lake and The Descent: Part 2 director James Watkins conjures up the Susan Hill novel through a script by Jane Goldman, known for her collaborative writing efforts on Kick-Ass, The Debt, and X-Men: First Class.

Young widowed lawyer and father Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) travels to the remote town of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of an old reclusive widow. Upon his arrival, he is rebuffed by both the town solicitor and the hotel owner. Parents scurry their children away and indoors as Kipps passes by. Only the wealthy Samuel Daily (Ciaran Hinds, The Debt) is unaffected by Kipps' arrival to the village, chalking up the others reaction to superstitious nonsense. Tasked with settling the estate and going through the extensive documentation of the widow Alice Drablow at her island-esque and secluded Eel Marsh House set in the middle of the boggy marsh and cut-out from the rest of the village with every high tide, Kipps starts to uncover strange documents and letters that provide clues to the elusive widow and her family that none of the villagers will disclose to him. After witnessing the death of a young girl at the constable's office, Kipps stays at the Eel Marsh House to continue his work, now distracted by strange noises, flitting shadows and forms, and unexplained visions. As he digs deeper into the paperwork, Kipps also digs deeper into the history of the house, its residents, and the evil that seems to surround the Eel Marsh House estate an the village of Crythin Gifford.

The Woman in Black is a ghost story, pure and simple. Situated in the cobwebbed and strangely decorated house, Arthur Kipps faces the bumps in the night and the strange happenings alone by using only his wits and his desperation to keep his solicitor's position by taking this assignment in the first place. The pale woman shrouded in mourning black and gauzy lace is little more than wisps caught out of the corner of the eyes. Dread mounts each time the Nine Lives Causeway and the surrounding marshes are covered by high tides. Some of the scares are obvious, some catch you off-guard. Director  Watkins uses classic sights, sounds and anticipation to maximize the scares, switching from Kipps view to an unearthly perspective with quick edits. London, the last eastbound train to Crythin Gifford, Crythin Gifford itself, the marsh, and the Eel Marsh House hide behind wispy ground fog, overgrown and unattended vines, and grey peeling paint to offer a dense, layered, foreboding environment.

The Woman in Black is a one-man show, or a one-man and one-woman show. Daniel Radcliife, trying to break out of his Harry Potter persona, has smartly diversified with stints on Broadway with 'Equus' and the more recent 'How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying', as well as this new big screen role. With the different period attire and hair, and a scrag of whiskers on his young face, Radcliffe does much to shed his humble wizarding beginnings. Unfortunately, the addition of the Hinds character Samuel Daily doesn't help matters when Radcliffe's Arthur calls him Sam - so close to Ron for some audible reason. All in all, Radcliffe works enough angst and magic (no pun intended) to deliver a strong first post-Harry performance.

The other characters in the film, Samuel Daily (Hinds) and his affected wife (Janet McTeer), and the rest of the suspicious and angry villagers, and all of the children who have died or whose parents fear for their lives, add a oily film of creepiness to the story. Part Children of the Corn, part Village of the Damned, the children and their guardians despise the mere fact that Arthur Kipps has come to town and insists on going to the Eel Marsh House. 

The Woman in Black does its best to unnerve, even as a more abstract ghost story thriller. No time is spent on gore or splattering scares. Radcliffe's film may not be as structured or complicated as Kidman's The Others, but it does its best to rattle you. In the climactic finale, even my horror genre jaded heart skipped a beat or two. Those who are looking for the cheap thrills or quick scares do not need to apply. For those looking for a subtle story of fear, vengeance and hatred in the form of a pale, wasted woman wrapped in black, The Woman in Black may fit the bill. 

    During afternoon tea, there’s a shift in the air.
    A bone-trembling chill that tells you she’s there.
    There are those who believe the whole town is cursed.
    But the house in the marsh is by far the worst.
    But she wants is unknown, but she always comes back.
    The specter of darkness, the Woman in Black.
    Have you seen her? The woman in black?
    She once lost her boy and now shes come back.
    Our parents all worry they make such a fuss
    For if she cant find him she'll take one of us.

WORTH: Matinee or DVD