A movie so scary that parents will need to have their children sleeping in the same bed with them for a while, or at least my wife did!
Screenplay By: Jane Goldman
Directed By: James Watkins
It’s odd to say, but The Woman In Black left me with a warm and cozy feeling. I won’t lie and say I am/was the biggest fan of Hammer Film Productions. But, I do know the Hammer Film style and I greatly appreciate that style. Said style is present in copious amounts in The Woman In Black and that is what left a warm and cozy feeling in my dark heart. I was at home watching James Watkins period horror film. The Woman In Black is a film that has a richness to its world and its characters that can only come about when the company behind the film knows the horror genre and cares about the horror genre.
The style I speak of is found in the lavish set designs, the moody music, and the mannered direction. The sets are something to behold, as they are all by their lonesome a source of great horror. I immediately got the sense that there was a reason people didn’t like the Eel Marsh Mansion. When Arthur Kipps enters the Constable’s office I knew from the vacant walls and the drab colors that this was a town that was suffering. The music adds to the horror of the sets, and combined the two help to tell much of the story without the characters even needing to be there. The direction is a thing of measured restraint, it is a thing I was most impressed with. Mr. Watkins takes his time in setting up the world, its characters, and the stakes. The sets get the ball rolling, the score sets the mood and, the direction of Mr. Watkins sets the pace of the film.
I found the direction to be of special note because Mr. Watkins deftly avoids turning The Woman In Black into a simple turn the corner and “boo” sort of tale. That element is present, but I found the scares to be far more organic than simple jump scares. The moments when a hand appears out of nowhere, or a noise is heard, or the titular Woman makes herself known are unexpected but they are also telling the story of the film. Mr. Watkins’ direction manages to have its cake and eat it too. His The Woman In Black is a great traditional horror film with jump scares out the wazoo. But, he uses those jump scares to enrich the story of the film and to relate key elements of the back story to the audience.
I’d be remiss in not talking about Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps when discussing The Woman In Black. Mr. Radcliffe is most famous as Harry Potter from the franchise of the same name. I was expecting The Woman In Black to be a somewhat difficult watch because of my inability to divorce Mr. Radcliffe from his most famous role. Much to my surprise Mr. Radcliffe immediately vanquished all thoughts of Harry Potter from my mind. For the duration of the film Mr. Radcliffe was Arthur Kipps and Arthur Kipps alone. This is a testament to the continually growing skill of Mr. Radcliffe as an actor. It is Mr. Radcliffe and Ciarán Hinds, as the non-believer Daily, who form the foundation of the film. For as important as the sets, scope, and direction are I know I would not have enjoyed The Woman In Black as much as I did without the fine performances of those two men.
The Woman In Black is an old fashioned horror film in the best possible way. My wife’s favorite type of horror film are those from the haunted house sub-genre. By the middle of The Woman In Black my wife was scared out of her mind and when it was over she couldn’t walk anywhere in the house without a light being on and my presence at her side. That is a great indication of how effective The Woman In Black is as a “scary” movie. I enjoyed the film from a different angle, but I enjoyed the film nonetheless. The ending did feel a bit rushed, but other than that I found The Woman In Black to be a great exercise in style and mood. Horror doesn’t have to be blood, guts, gore, and violence. The Woman In Black is yet another film that shows how a great horror movie can spring forth from the basic tenets of atmosphere and mood.