“… would have been a guaranteed to be modern classic, had it not been for a few missteps.”
Last night I watched The Woman in Black, the 2012 horror film that finds Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe confronting the ghost of an old woman in a remote village. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a down-on-his-luck (to put it lightly) lawyer who is told to travel to the house of widow who recently dies and sort through her paperwork. What he discovers when he reaches the town is that every single person warns him not to go to the house. He doesn’t listen, and while he is there he starts to see a woman dressed in black, and when he returns to the town he discovers that something has happened while he was gone. That’s pretty much all I can say without giving too much of the film away, so let’s get into it.
The Woman in Black is not a film that I had high expectations for. I have seen the original Woman in Black film many years ago, and I liked it at the time, so I assumed that this “remake” wouldn’t be as good. What I found was pleasantly surprising. The Woman in Black presents us with a very atmospheric location, a fog-ridden, remote English town. This allows for the film to constantly build this sense of unease within you, which is then “triggered” (for lack of a better word) by the discovery of this ghost. The beginning of the film is rather slow, having to set up a few things to get the story going. Arthur arrives at the town and everyone is acting very strange, but this in itself is not scary. The real scares start up when Arthur decides to travel to the house which everyone tells him to avoid.
The Woman in Black, in the beginning at least, has quite a few “cheap” scares. These are things that wouldn’t be scary, but the film blasts a loud tone at the right moment and you end up jumping out of your skin. This set the tone for the film, or so I thought. After the film gets those out of the way what we are left with is a pretty solid horror film. The scares come consistently, but they don’t really rely on loud audio cues to terrify you, instead letting you experience the horror first hand. This makes for a genuinely terrifying experience, and it cements The Woman in Black as a pretty solid horror film.
The overall design of the film really added to the atmosphere as well. In the town you have old buildings, but a very small space which results in a tight sense of community. All of the costumes were great, and they fit the time period, but what really surprised me was the design of the aforementioned woman in black. Many horror films feel the need to make the “bad guy” grotesque in appearance, so even looking at them is scary. I understand where they are coming from, but most times it feels unnecessary. Luckily The Woman in Black opts for a very toned down appearance of our antagonist, which means that she really just looks like a woman in a black dress. This is refreshing to see and it in no way deters from the fear that the movie instilled in me.
One thing that I’m torn on is the ending of the film. I’m not going to go into specifics, so don’t worry about spoilers, but I will speak vaguely of my feelings toward it. The ending of The Woman in Black is one that I love the idea of, but the execution seemed kind of sloppy. The ending would have worked had there not been a bunch of different set-up beforehand that led you to think the story was going elsewhere. Really what we got was more confusing to me than anything, and it kind of spoiled what was other wise a solid film.
Overall The Woman in Black is a movie that is sure to scare the shit out of you. With an atmospheric setting and a chilling story The Woman in Black would have been a guaranteed to be modern classic, had it not been for a few missteps.
I give The Woman in Black a B