THE WOMAN IN BLACK. (2012) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY SUSAN HILL. DIRECTED BY JAMES WATKINS. STARRING DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, MARY STOCKLEY AND SHAUN DOOLEY. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Susan Hill sure got lucky when she came up with the idea for this book, heh-heh-heh. Wish I’d thought of it first. What a fantastic story, for a kick-off, a surefire draw for the horror community.
This super-scary and atmospheric movie is a HAMMER film, HAMMER FILM STUDIOS being the company that brought us those wonderful Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing films from the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), to name just a couple. This modern-day venture into horror is definitely worthy of inclusion in the superb HAMMER canon. I personally think it’s a bloody brilliant film, excuse my French.
Daniel Radcliffe, who was the luckiest boy in the world for the whole of the ‘Noughties because he got to play Harry Potter in the films of J.K. Rowling’s stupendously popular books, is the star of the film. He’s grown-up now and quite handsome, but you can still see the Harry Potter in him, haha. You’ll never lose it, Harry…!
Anyway, he plays a young widowed lawyer called Arthur Kipp in this chilling supernatural horror film, set in Edwardian times. That means the times after the Victorian era. I think…! He gets sent to an out-of-the-way village called Crythin Gifford on a legal job.
He’s got to go to a place there called Eel Marsh House to take care of the legal documents of the deceased owner, one Mrs. Alice Drablow. He hates the thought of leaving his four-year-old son Joseph with the nanny, but needs must and all that…
The natives of Crythin Gifford are super-unfriendly. The very mention of Eel Marsh House seems to get everyone’s hackles up. Arthur’s only ally in the place is a rich local landowner called Samuel Daily, marvellously played by one of my favourite actors, Ciaran Hinds.
Eel Marsh House has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever seen in any film ever, and that’s the truth. It’s a truly magnificent old ramshackle house on the edge of a marsh, hence its name, and it’s only accessible at certain times of the day because of the tides. The grounds are delightfully overgrown and spooky and even contain an old graveyard, and as for the house itself…!
The interior of the house is straight out of the Victorian era, with dusty old drapes and old curios under even dustier glass that look like they were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of the eighteen-hundreds.
There are ornaments and bric-a-brac and old photographs everywhere and all kinds of fantastic Victoriana and old clutter. There’s no electric light, no remaining servants and no neighbours for miles around.
But that’s where all Mrs. Drablow’s legal documents are being stored, so that’s where poor Harry, I mean, Arthur, has to hole up for the duration. But he won’t be alone in the house. No, he’ll have company all right, the grim old residence’s one remaining tenant…
Next to the house itself, which for me is the star of the whole shootin’ match, I love Ciaran Hinds’ character, the rich but decent Samuel Daily, and I loved when Samuel lent Arthur his adorable little dog Spider (what kind of name is that for a cute puppy?) so he wouldn’t lack for company in the house.
Company’s one thing Arthur won’t be lacking, though. Eel Marsh House has a tragic history and its tentacles of terror (I like that, tentacles of terror!) reach as far as the village of Crythin Gifford, a village surprisingly low on children. Why is that, I wonder? Harry will need to draw on every ounce of his wizarding powers to survive a stay in the toxic and deadly dangerous Eel Marsh House…!
There are some really good jump-scares in the film that’ll give you the willies big-time. The old nursery at the top of the house is filled with the freakiest-looking old Victorian-type toys the film-makers could find, or so it seems. It’s got all the old staples in it like the haunted rocking-chair and the old enchanted music-box and it’ll creep the bejeesus out of you if you find Victorian nurseries creepy, which a lot of horror fans do.
There’s also a lovely old crypt in the film, though sadly we don’t get to have a good old snoop around inside it which I would have loved. I simply adore nosing around inside other people’s crypts…!
This is a beautifully-shot, well-acted horror film with magnificent scenery and settings and a really scary ghost. Watch it if you can, but leave all the lights on. She’s coming to get you…
PS, I’m not forgetting that there was an excellent made-for-television version of this story filmed in 1989, as I know a few of you horror fans are going to remind me! As a bonus feature, as it were, I’m including here a review I wrote of that 1989 version but please, please be warned, it contains extreme spoilers as I penned it when I was only a fledgeling of a wee baby bird of a chicklet of a reviewer and I thought that that’s what you were meant to do…!
THE WOMAN IN BLACK. 1989. DIRECTED BY HERBERT WISE. STARRING ADRIAN RAWLINS, BERNARD HEPTON, DAVID DAKER AND PAULINE MORAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Based on the hugely successful novel by Susan Hill, this is the story of young solicitor Arthur Kidd, a family man with two young children. Kidd is sent by his employer to the small town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of elderly and reclusive widow Mrs. Alice Drablow and afterwards tie up any loose ends pertaining to her estate.
At the funeral, Kidd is uncomfortably aware of the presence first at the back of the church and then outside in the graveyard of a grim-faced woman dressed entirely in black. Kidd travels then to Mrs. Drablow’s home, a cheerless old pile called Eel Marsh House which is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway periodically obscured by mist.
While rooting about amongst old Mrs. Drablow’s effects, he finds two death certificates and a photograph of someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of the woman in the black attire. He also listens to some disturbing recordings made by the late Mrs. Drablow that seem to indicate that the house has a troubled past, a past chiefly involving a woman of whom Mrs. Drablow has been wary, to say the least, if not outright afraid.
A few things happen in quick succession, none of them good. Well, it’s a bleedin’ ghost story, innit…? Kidd is plagued by the sound of a pony and trap he cannot see, a horse in difficulties and a child screaming for its mother. In a room in the house decked out as a nursery he hears the laughter of a child and the sound of a child’s voice saying: “Hello…?”
Kidd learns that old Mrs. Drablow and her now-deceased hubby adopted the child of Mrs. Drablow’s sister, a woman who later felt forced into kidnapping her own son and tried to flee with him. She and the child died horribly when their horse and trap sank in the fog-wreathed marsh, and it is the sound of their death-throes that Kidd hears repeatedly now.
Sam Toovey, a local land-owner in whom Kidd has confided his experiences, warns Kidd not to return to the house. He also points out to the increasingly unnerved young solicitor that any appearance of the woman dressed entirely in black usually means that the death of a child is imminent.
Clearly the so-called titular Woman In Black, not content with merely haunting the bejeesus out of the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford, is also wreaking revenge on any poor parents lucky enough to possess that which has been taken from her so cruelly.
Anyway, long story short, Kidd wisely decides to leave Crythin Gifford but before he does, he has one more terrifying encounter with Jennet Goss- that’s her name- that has him fleeing back to London as if Old Nick himself were on his tail. Distance is no object for The Woman In Black, however.
In a starkly chilling scene in keeping with the overall feel of the film, she appears in the middle of a lake on which Kidd and his little family are boating. A tree falls on their boat, killing all four of them. Mean old Woman In Black, offing a perfectly nice family like that. Tsk tsk. What’s the world coming to?
This made-for-television film may not be as flashily atmospheric as the more modern HAMMER version, but it’s an effective little chiller just the same. So effective, in fact, that I fully expected to see the silhouette of The Woman In Black everywhere I looked for the rest of the night.
It’s one of the starkest, grimmest and most realistic-looking horror films I’ve seen lately. The acting is flawless and the scenery and settings are bleakly beautiful. Watch this film if you possibly can, but do be careful. She don’t give no warning, she don’t…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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