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Review: The Woman in Black
The Woman in Black was originally a novel written by Susan Hill in 1983. The book was received fairly well which then led to a stage play and then a television movie in 1989. Of course now, in the time of reboots and remakes, we have another Woman in Black. Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter steps into the shoes of Arthur Kipps, the main character of the story, who is dealing with quite his fair share of demons as he is facing off with this menacing ghost. Now it is a haunted house film, and those kind of films have not faired well as of late. Dream House, Insidious and so on were all a bit of a mixed bag. While The Woman in Black isn't a perfect movie, it is much better than any haunted house film that has been released of late.
The plot follows Arthur Kipps who is a young lawyer that lives with his four-year old son Joseph and his son's nanny. Kipps' wife died giving birth to Joseph, and the trauma still haunts him as he randomly sees her. Not only is he still dealing with the loss of his wife, but he is also facing financial issues along with problems at work with his law firm. He is assigned to handle the estate of Alice Drablow, who owned the Eel Marsh House of England where she lived with her husband, son and sister Jennet Humfrye. Kipps quickly boards a train to get to his destination, where he finds that the locals are not very welcoming of his presence. However, one man by the name of Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) is, and the two become friends rather quickly. He tells a few of the locals that he will be staying through the week, which troubles most of them. Most would think by how uneasy the locals were by his presence that he would be more inclined to leave quicker. However, since he needs the money for the completed job, he stays focused on the task at hand no matter how creepy it gets. When he eventually reaches the Eel Marsh House, no driver will take him further then the front gates or go in with him. He spends a good portion of his first day on the grounds of the house going through papers but is troubled when he hears footsteps. He is then even more troubled when he looks out a window and sees the fabled Woman in Black that the townspeople seem to fear.
After Kipps heads back in to town, he isn't treated particularly well by the locals following a horrible death in town. His friend Daily takes him to his own place for some dinner where he meets Daily's wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth seems a bit off, as for one she treats her two dogs as her children. It is simply her wanting children so desperately, but still, it is incredibly odd. Kipps learns more about the Woman in Black through Elizabeth and heads back to the Eel Marsh House. At the house he finds more information telling more about the family, and through some disturbing visions he begins to piece together exactly how Nathaniel died. He stays at the house over the night where he begins to experience all kinds of paranormal activity.
It is hard to say anymore without giving away some of the plot, which I will say is surprisingly good. I had low expectations for this film, as I am not a big fan of Daniel Radcliffe's acting ability and when you add in how well haunted house films have done lately, I really thought it would be a stinker. However, Radcliffe did enough to be likable and believable in the role of Arthur Kipps but the real stars of the show was the director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman. The scenery itself added to the creepiness of the film as well as the location of the Eel Marsh House. The long desolate road leading to the house added to the creep factor of the scenery. Some of the more frightening scenes occurred inside the house of course, which were all pulled off incredibly well as the creepy dolls, the darkness and rocking chair all put me on edge throughout the experience. This marks the second film that James Watkins has directed (all in the horror genre) which leads me to believe he could become one of the up and coming horror directors of our generation. This film had the signature feel of the timeless 1970's horror films that I hold so dear to my heart. The slow start could lose some people, but the final forty minutes are a real treat for all horror fans.