The Woman in Black Film Review

Fresh from the lower chambers of The Vault’s screening of Dracula, I decided to double-up on my fill of Hammer with Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.

Looking at the film’s twitter feed the trend of comments seemed to indicate that it scared the hell out folks, but not in the cheap jumpy way that most modern fare seems to do. This was enough to pique my interest.

The set-up is traditional: man arrives in small town on business and spends nights in haunted house while strange happenings occur around him and in the village.

What makes the film particularly effective is its modern execution. It’s a minimal and sparse affair for the first 30 minutes with very few words exchanged. In this way, The Woman in Black escapes a common fault of most ghost stories: it gets on with the business of building tension and scaring you rather than shoehorning in a contrived story to make things sound plausible.

Screenwriter Jane Goldman’s model seems to approximate John Carpenter’s The Fog or The Thing: taking the time to build up tension and wind the audience member slowly so that when the scares do come, they hit you hard.

Although the film does indeed feature a few jumpy moments, they are done in the best possible ways: corner of the eye movements, subtle (as well as full-on) manifestations of The Woman.

Praise has to go to Daniel Radcliffe for being able to convey genuine terror and madness: at points in the film I found myself questioning whether Daniel’s character was just highly strung or really seeing ghosts. Again, this is all alluded to, no stock doctor scene advising the patient to take a few pills.

Again, because the film doesn’t tread the path of having to explain there’s a ghost causing havoc, you accept there is and can enjoy the pleasure of the scares.

When I left the cinema, crowds were spilling out taking deep breaths and saying, “Whoa, that made me jump. Excellent stuff.” Couldn’t agree more.

In the age of SAWs and the like it’s great to see a traditional ghost story out-scare and outclass the competition.

posted by admin at 11:14 pm  

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