One from the rewatch pile…
The Woman in Black (2012)
Film: Any horror fan worth his mettle knows of the famed English studio Hammer films. Over many years Hammer entertained the world with Gothic tales of terror and fright, and gave us brilliant performances from the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They also introduced the world to many a blushing busty English rose. Great things don’t last forever though, and as a new generation of horror came to light in the 70s and 80s, Hammer disappeared. But not forever.
Recently, Hammer have re-emerged with a few new films: the English language remake of Let the Right One In called Let Me In and this, a retooling of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, filmed once before in 1989. This version has been adapted by Jane Goldman, who scripted Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and is directed by James Watkins, who previously helmed Eden Lake.
A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is on his last legs at his job. It has been several years since his young wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during childbirth and he has never gotten over it, bringing up their son Joseph (Misha Handley) with only the assistance of a nanny (Jessica Raine).
As the final chance to save his job, Kipps’ boss has given him the challenge of travelling to the town of Cryphin Gifford to make sure that the final will and testament of the recently deceased owner of the secluded property Eel Marsh, Mrs Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) is correct, by checking through any and all documents at her estate. What Kipps finds there though is a hate filled spirit of a woman in black, but why is she so filled with loathing, and can Kipps do anything to appease her torment of the town and it’s children?
The Woman in Black looks quite beautiful, and has a mood that perfectly matches that of the main character. The township of Cryphin Gifford is so dank that one feels the cold, wet and clamminess as if it is present in the room in which you are watching the film.
The performances are all solid. Still quite young, Daniel Radcliffe plays his Peter Cushing styled character with the intensity of a man well beyond his years, or an emo on depressants. The addition of the wonderful Ciarin Hinds as his ally within the town is excellent, and Hinds has a weight and subtlety in his performance as a man haunted by the death of a young son, and whose wife has never recovered from it.
The script also tells a grand ghost story, but here lies its biggest problem. Ghost stories in cinema have a language of their own and they can fall into a trap. That trap is they either do something out of the norm and have audiences not ‘get’ it, or they stick to the generic ghost story devices such as a creaky house and creepy toys et cetera, and even though they are speaking a cinematic language that your average cinema goer will comprehend, the story just doesn’t stand out.
Unfortunately, The Woman in Black is guilty of the latter. Even though there was some impressive imagery (Eel Marsh itself is simply amazing) the story just feels as though it is telling a tale we’ve all heard many times over. It seems to me that the makers of The Woman in Black tried to ignore the fact that the tastes of horror fans have moved on, and that perhaps this type of film isn’t relevant any more. I know whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel like I was watching a classic horror film, but someone who was trying to emulate one.
So Hammer are back, baby! The pure gothic tales of fright they have given us have returned with them, but, I’m afraid their time may have passed. The acting is generally of a high standard and the movie boasts some amazing gothic horror visuals, but it seems to miss that ‘classic’ horror mood. Perhaps this is due to the main elements of that “classic horror mood” being Cushing and Lee, who would have kicked arse as Kipps and Daily respectively, but without them, this whole event just feels a little ordinary.
Spooky toys, a creaky house, ghostly children, mysterious rocking chairs, generic, generic generic. The Woman in Black is a great looking film that ticks all the ‘spooky’ boxes and has some fine performances, but it fails to deliver any real scares and never tries to rise above the regular ‘ghost story’ trappings.
Format: This film is presented in a pristine 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I have to say, due to the colour palette of the film, works much better is pitch darkness, If your lounge room has even the slightest bit of light in it, you won’t get the full benefit of deep blacks and immaculate shadow detail The soundscape matches the visuals in excellence, and like it, works best in the dark, and is presented in DTS-HD 5.1.
Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Lockout, Magic Mike and Killer Joe before taking us to the menu.
There are only two, quite short, extras on this disc:
No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps is a brief exploration of Radcliffe’s performance as Kipps, with comments from other cast and crew as to why he was good for the role.
Inside the Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black, obviously, looks at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.
WISIA: It’s highly unlikely that I’d ever waste anymore of my precious time on this film.