Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Woman in Black

Directed by James Watkins
Original book by Susan Hill
Screenplay by Jane Goldman
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Liz White, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Misha Handley, Alisa Khazanova, Shaun Dooley.

“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 and the marsh is by far the worst. What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back; the spectre of darkness, the Woman in Black.”

Three young girls sit in the attic of their home, playing with dolls and a china tea set.
They see something, or someone, out of the corner of their eyes.
They abandon their game of make believe, walk towards three windows, and step up onto the ledge…

So begins the most recent film adaptation of the 1983 Victorian-set horror novel, written by Susan Hill: The Woman in Black. A scorned spirit of a mother who lost her young son under tragic circumstances is haunting the remote, fictional town of Crythin Gifford. A sighting of the Woman in Black by an adult foreshadows the death of a child belonging to any one of the families living in fear of the vengeful figure. She is able to manipulate the children, however, and causes them to commit an apparent suicide.

Daniel Radcliffe takes the part of the young lawyer and single father, Arthur Kipps, who visits the town to deal with the paperwork of a recently deceased widow, Alice Drablow (Alisa Khazanova). The fearful attitude of the town’s residents may come across as very unwelcoming, but Kipps is in for a chilling surprise upon entering the grounds of Eel Marsh.

Radcliffe’s performance is commendable and he successfully carries the film as a protagonist whose eyes and ears are the main insight into the supernatural goings on. There were one or two line deliveries which came across as a ‘Potterism’, but overall he was impressive, especially with his facial expressions and reactions. His idea of casting his real life Godson, Misha Handley, as his adorable on-screen son, Joseph Kipps, was a good one, as the chemistry between them came across very well.  Despite the small amount of screen time, it is apparent that Misha has promising talent and that he is comfortable in front of the cameras.

Radcliffe is not the only well-known name to be involved with this motion picture; Ciaran Hinds (Calendar Girls, The Phantom of the Opera) plays Kipps’ only friend in the town, Sam Daily. Daily, whose only son drowned, and whose wife believes their son’s spirit often tries to speak through her, offers Kipps a place to stay and drives him to the house when others do not dare.

The variation of the camera angles were creative- either enabling the audience to see through Kipps’ eyes or to observe what he cannot see, for example, that the Woman in Black (Liz White) is standing right behind him. Cinematographer, Tim Maurice-Jones, also deserves some credit for his shots of the isolating marsh lands, which add to the bleakness and Arthur’s sense of being completely alone while facing this terrifying ghost with an immortal grudge.

So many ‘scary’ films depend too much on the gore and have too much fun smearing fake blood everywhere in order for their film to be affiliated with the horror genre. Hill’s story, on the other hand, is as frightening as the ghostly faces and screams, and there were many moments of suspense to keep the adrenaline going throughout. The script itself is fairly simplistic, but that is hardly noticeable and well covered up behind the tension. Lovers of old school horror will especially enjoy this one.

(If you are prone to nightmares or night terrors, I would probably give this one a miss, as there is some footage which will only serve to make them worse. Then again if you feel up to the challenge you should go along, but take a cushion)!

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