In Daniel Radcliffe’s first movie outing after the Harry Potter movie franchise, he takes on the role of young solicitor Arthur Kipps, a widowed father of a little boy named Joseph. Kipps, whose career is on the rocks after his wife died of childbirth, is given a final chance by his firm to work on the estate of a certain Mrs. Alice Drablow. Among Drablow’s properti es is a haunted mansion at the end of the marshes called Eel Marsh, where a vengeful spirit of a woman in black reportedly appears. But from the moment Arthur sets foot on the town, he is given the cold shoulder by the locals, pushing him to delve into the mysterious estate all the more. As he tries to find out the history of the house’s former occupants, the woman in black haunts him, and child suicides begin anew in a town that has already lost countless children to the ghost.
This horror did great in the box office a couple of months back, and for good reason. Adopted from a book with the same title written by Susan Hill, the movie, set in the early 1900s was everything that a supernatural horror should be. It mainly focused on its lead character, with most of the scenes featuring Radcliffe alone in the haunted mansion, but the manner in which the spookiness (which was the general tone of the movie) was executed, was perfection.
The movie proceeds at a very leisurely pace, taking its time to develop the story, and giving moments to each important scene. However, the pacing does not leave room for doubt that there is going to be a major revelation to watch out for as the film progresses. It sort of felt like The Others because viewers are given a sense that there is something going on beyond what is happening and this gives them something to look forward to. The pacing also leaves the viewers room to speculate and form their own theories about the suicides while getting scared sh*tless with the ghoul’s surprise appearances.
But what really sealed the deal for me was the small details like the props they used to accentuate the general feel of creepiness at the house. The strange looking toys and the wind up dolls at the nursery while the wind raged on outside was sheer genius. It was very subtle but effective, which just goes to show that movies don’t always have to be razzle dazzle and CGI. I can hardly remember being this scared watching a horror movie, as I’ve gotten used to the tricks that filmmakers pull to scare up a scream from unsuspecting audiences.
While there may be some inconsistencies in the movie (in terms of the state of Nathaniel’s corpse in one scene), these are quite minor and and forgivable and does not negate the merit of the film’s overall result. The ending is also one of the selling points of the movie as it may be interpreted differently by different viewers. I, for one, was suckered into watching the movie because a friend was unsure of how to the take the ending. I would like to believe that it was happy.
The Woman in Black was a great watch. Not only does one get his fill of scares but it is also a thinking movie that gets the brain cells going. All in all, as mystery enveloped in a horror, this was a great feature from director James Watkins. Now, I shall try to get a hold of the literature to see if it creeps me out even more.