Re:View – ‘The Woman In Black’

The Arts

I realise I forgot to post this a while back. Better late than never, I say;

In recent months scary house stories have made a return. We’ve had ‘The Pact’, ‘The House At The End Of The Street’, ‘Sinister’, ‘The Innkeepers’, ‘Penumbra’, ‘Dream House’ and ‘Intruders’, to name just a few. I found Ti West’s much-touted ghost story ‘The Innkeepers’ a real disappointment; although the setting was nicely realized, the leading girl was incredibly annoying and the haunting was entirely free of plot smarts.

I’d read Susan Hill’s book of ‘The Woman In Black’ many years ago and the play, a cheap two-hander that went into the Fortune Theatre to fill a programming gap (two actors, low lighting, a loud noise and an ASM in a mask who pops up in the Dress Circle) has now been running half as long as ‘The Mousetrap’, thereby closing off that lovely little theatre forever.

I can see why the film is a success. Every possible Victorian ghost story trope is laid on with a trowel; a secluded mansion, a bereaved husband, dead children, dimly lit rooms, creaking doors, creepy old toys, rolling mists, a veiled woman, rhubarbing locals who warn the hero away; it’s a sort of greatest hits package, an elegant throwback which was beyond parody even in the 1950s, and a moderately efficient one which appealed to newbies in such numbers that it became a huge US hit for Hammer, which is music to my heart.

But what the film does lack is any real resonance, anything oblique, off-kilter or unresolved. It’s solid, safe and neat, not helped by a script as flat as its landscape from the proficient, ubiquitous but dead hand of Jane Goldman. However, Goldman (or perhaps the director) did allow for something special – a long centre section of wordless creeping about that reminded me of Freddie Francis’s ‘The Skull’. The film’s other saving grace is a superb performance from Daniel Radcliffe, who appears genuinely bereft and haunted throughout.

Fun for all the family, then – there’s just nothing that grips and haunts in the way that ‘The Orphanage’ or ‘The Others’ did.

4 comments on “Re:View – ‘The Woman In Black’”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    “Music to my heart” is that original? A counter to “to my ears”? How does that music sound? I’m getting a sort of Blubba Blubba Blubba. And I don’t really want any erratic alternative beats; don’t want to be a pacemaker in this area. Smilishly typed.

  2. Lostintown says:

    I was really looking forward to “The Woman in Black” but it ended up suffering the same fate as other remakes by trading off much of the atmosphere of the original for whatever horror cliches are popular at the time. There were mysterious handprints, shadowy figures in Windows, creepy automata etc. all delivered at breakneck speed. The only thing that was missing were those heavy plastic sheets that have appeared in every horror film since “Ils”. A similar thing happened with Del Toro’s reworking of “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark”

    What almost saved it were Radcliffe and the striking landscape.

    As Admin has said in the past..”Have we really reached a point where everything must be remade, rebooted or anglicised?”

  3. Gary says:

    I haven’t seen the new film or the stage show, though I read the book years ago and saw the Nigel Kneale scripted TV version. They were both good pastiches of Victorian ghost stories, but I’m a little surprised at the story’s enormous popularity. The show certainly benefited from being an elegant alternative to the sort of tired slasher movies that had just about played themselves out when the show was first mounted. I suspect that the new version is very well made, but the whole thing seems slightly anodyne, whereas THE INNOCENTS, which I saw for the very first time recently, really did give me the creeps.

  4. J. Folgard says:

    I enjoyed the movie, even though your point is completely true -for genuine thrills, ‘the Orphanage’ or ‘the Others’ are much more intense and daring. But I’m glad it put Hammer back on the map. Apparently there’s a sequel in the works, and even if it doesn’t end up being the most beautiful ‘franchise’ in horror, I’ll take it over those endless Paranormal Activity numbers, lazy demonic possession flicks or torture-porn rehashes. In fact, maybe what I liked the most is not the movie itself, but the fact that it was able to find an audience, when I thought that most moviegoers nowadays only wanted fake found footage or faux-arty, pimped-up gore!
    I also thought Ciaran Hinds did a very good job in this, too.

Comments are closed.