Films | The Woman in Black – Movie Review

The Woman in Black – Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on February 19, 2012 | No Comments

PRODUCER – Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes, Brian Oliver
DIRECTOR – James Watkins
WRITER – Jane Goldman (screenplay), Susan Hill     (novel)
CAST – Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Sophie Stuckey
MUSIC – Marco Beltrami

It is the Edwardian Era, the first decade of the twentieth century. Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a down-on-luck solicitor with a four yr-old son is yet to get over the passing of his wife who died during childbirth. As part of a professional commitment he is given the affairs of Late Mrs Alice Drablow to settle. Kipps sets off to the Eel Marsh House in the North East of England only to uncannily find the local community very unfriendly towards him and his mission. He continues though and happens to glimpse the vision of a woman in black. He soon learns of the dark legend surrounding the sightings of the woman in black connected to deaths of children in the town. He is confronted with several deaths himself and warned of a threat to his own son as well by Mrs Daily, the wife of Sam Daily, a landowner, whose dead child speaks through her. Kipps’ mission then becomes a resolve to rid the town of the ghost and safeguard his son.

Adapted from the 1983 horror novel of Susan Hill, the film sticks to a traditional narrative tone. It unfolds slowly, gradually building threat through stillness, darkness and fear reflected on the faces of the townspeople. This traditionality also becomes consistent in the way the film develops visually with more emphasis on sound, lighting and setting than shaky camera movements except the occasional motion blur.

With violent deaths of little children at their own hands being the central theme one would expect the film to be a gore-fest. But the film takes a dark and surreal tone, chilling with resounding silences, building drama through suspenseful music, and with mists, marshlands and a high contrast, unsaturated colour palette that screams eeriness. It relies less on dialogue and more on visual exposition keeping the experience visceral and even psychological at times.

However, there is a slowness to the film that loosens the underlying horror instead of tightening it. Kipps’ journey to unearthing the mystery of the woman in black is steady and the climactic episode of laying to rest the ghost’s object of angst is fraught with tension. Yet, the power of gripping horror is missing, making the dangers of such a ghostly haunting seem less important than it is. The climax is a diversion from the original novel and mixes dread with hope at several levels. There is closure and there isn’t and it works fine inspite of the contradiction.

Daniel Radcliffe, the young and brave Harry Potter for generations to come, may seem an unlikely choice to play a bereaving father. Unfortunately, he distances some more with his singularly troubled expressions he wears without inflections, variations or break. It isn’t particularly a graceful performance or even a memorable one.

For horror fans the film is a throwback to an older manner of experiencing chills, if the tad laborious pace doesn’t get in the way. Apart from that it can become a complete experience even if not earth-shaking.

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