Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Woman In Black


"Don't go chasing shadows, Arthur..."

The Woman In Black is the revived Hammer Film's adaptation of the classic ghost story by Susan Hill. Recently widowed solicitor Arthur Kipps is sent to the bleak, remote village of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of deceased widow Alice Drablow. Following a distinctly unfriendly welcome from the locals ( with the exception of Ciaran Hinds' wealthy landowner ) Arthur heads to the isolated and run-down Eel Marsh House to sort through the widow's papers. Here, alone on an island in the marsh, he is terrorised by the titular ghost and other phantoms, and is forced to confront his own fears and sorrow...


This is a suitably chilling and atmospheric version of the famous tale, from the pen of Jane ( Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class ) Goldman, and directed by James ( Eden Lake ) Watkins. Every creepy trick in the book is wheeled out to make the viewer uneasy as we follow flickering candles down darkened corridors, hear unearthly cries in the fog, and jump out of our seats as faces appear reflected in windows or glimpsed through a zoetrope. The gloomy, Gothic feel of the movie is reflected in the detailed production design: the jumbled, Edwardian mess of Eel Marsh House and the rain-lashed, grimy cottages and pub of Crythin Gifford. The Woman herself is a blurry, shadowy figure, often lurking at the edge of the frame, watching and waiting.

The main focus of the movie is, of course, lonely and troubled solicitor Arthur, as played by former boy wizard Daniel "Don't call me Harry" Radcliffe. He has to carry many long, wordless scenes in the middle of the slow-burning story as he explores the rambling, cobwebbed house, with only a small dog for a companion. ( No, not Rupert Grint... ) Radcliffe makes a fair attempt at pulling this off but is hampered by the repetitive nature of the scenes. He spends a lot of time looking out of the window at barely-glimpsed, spooky figures in the grounds of the house... then ventures out of the house to look back through the windows to see barely-glimpsed, spooky figures inside the house. But all this stage-setting pays off when the scares come thick and fast as the Woman's true nature and purpose are uncovered. While not as trouser-soilingly scary as the Nigel Kneale TV version from the 1980s, this is still a fine entry in the long tradition of English ghost stories and makes a change from the American teen horrors of recent years.


And, speaking of teenagers, the "Harry Potter effect" brought teens out en masse to view this movie in our local flea-pit the other night. Well, I say "view", but most of them spent more time talking, giggling, rustling popcorn packets, messing with mobiles and screaming like banshees at every scary moment. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, this almost completely spoiled the atmosphere of the movie, even worse than when we saw Paranormal Activity and kids were laughing like drains at the film's finale because they were too embarrassed to admit they were scared. I don't normally worry about this kind of thing, although I know a lot of people who do, but this time it really pissed me off. It was even more annoying because this was the first horror movie we'd allowed James to see at the cinema, because of its 12A rating, and it spoilt his enjoyment too. I think we'll appreciate it more when the DVD comes out...


...but at least we got to see some creepy toy monkeys :-)

7 comments:

M. D. Jackson said...

I didn't know it was a Hammer Film. I didn't think Hammer still made films.

Well I'll have to go see it now. I'll catch an early show at my local theater. Those are usually devoid of teenagers. Only us yawny oldsters who have to get to bed early take in the early show.

cerebus660 said...

Hammer have only recently got back into film production. I don't quite know what that means in terms of what they actually do ( surely nothing like the glory days of Bray Studios in the '50s/'60s ) but it's good to see their name on a big screen...

Steve said...

Any film with creepy toy monkeys can't be all bad.

cerebus660 said...

My thoughts exactly :-)

Mick said...

I could give a toss about Daniel Rad..who? Radcliffe-but totally want to see this for Cirian Hinds because I've seen more of him in the past year (without repeat viewings of anything, no less); because I like a creepy movie (who doesn't, really?); and because of LIZ WHITE (I'm absolutely on Team Annie forever, with or without Sam and Gene and the Cortina). =)

Jon Duckworth said...

So true. Reminds me of the time we went to see Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others". Brilliantly creepy atmosphere ruined by teenagers running up and down the aisles and shouting at each other across the theatre. "Jimahl! Yo, Jimahl! Jimahl! This film's shit innit?" Instead of trying to get everything a 12A rating they should make all non-kids' films cert 18 - then we could all watch them in peace.

cerebus660 said...

@Mickey
Don't expect to see much of Liz White in the film. Her character only appears briefly in flashback and, until you commented, I hadn't even realised it was her. ( Although that just may be due to my advanced age. ) If you get the chance to see the BBC's version of The Scarlet Petal And The White from last year you'll see a much better appearance by Ms. White.

@Jon
As I said I don't normally get too upset about other cinema-goers, but this was a real exception. Just constant chatter, giggling, screaming, rattling and rustling. Welcome to the jungle!
Still, not as bad as the time I sat next to some wild-eyed guy who talked to himself throughout the entire film about how Hitler was "too soft on the Jews"...
I can't half pick 'em :-)

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