The Woman in Black

The Woman In Black (2012)

The movie opens on three little girls playing with their dolls. They hear a voice, and suddenly drop their dolls and walk to the windows, open them, and jump to their deaths.

Then we cut to a young man, our hero Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), grieving over his dead wife. He hugs his son and goes off to work for a lawyer that tells him ‘buck up or you’re out on your ear. (because, he only lost his wife, for god sake nothing to cry over (freaking 19th Century alpha men, what are you going to do?).

Anyway, Arthur’s employer informs him he’s to oversee the probate of a deceased woman in Crythin Gifford (a village in England) and the selling of her home Eel Marsh House. Arthur leaves his four year old son behind and heads off a train for the town.During the trip he meets a nice, but somewhat ominous figure,  Daily (played by Ciarán Hinds). However, Daily seems personable enough and invites the lawyer to dinner. Arthur arrives the home of the family solicitor to find him not at all forthcoming. On the contrary, he wants Arthur out of his hair, and out of town as soon as possible. In fact,  everyone warns him not to get involved with the Eel Marsh house–including the innkeeper who doesn’t want to give him a room, until the wife offers him the attic. Yep. That attic, the one they little girls jumped from.

Stranger still, all this going on around him and no one will tell Arthur much; they just all want him gone.

Daily finally tells him the whole sad story: A family got stuck in the bog that stands between the town and the house, and a little boy died. The mother never got over the child’s loss, blamed the family, hung herself in the Eel Marsh house and cursed the whole town–supposedly.

Arthur shrugs off the spook story and heads to the police station to find out more. Two children rush in; the boy says “my sister drank poison.” And the little girl dies in Arthur’s arms. The grief-stricken family, and the gossips around town, blame “the woman in black.”

Arthur finds out at the promised dinner with his new friend Daily that even he has had a son that perished. And Daily’s wife (played by Janet McTeer), well, she still hasn’t quite gotten over it. Might be because she’s a wee bit psychic and seems to be in communication with the boy and several of the other dead children.

Still, Arthur’s not so sure the town is cursed. That’s silly, isn’t it?

He goes back to work in the house. Late that night, odd things start happening. He sees the shadow of a hand, on the window, hears whispering, a rocking chair starts creaking on its own. A dog barks frantically, and he hears someone crying but can find no evidence for anything causing all this. Bewildered, he takes the story of his night back to his friend. Then there’s a fire, and a little girl trapped inside the burning building. Arthur rushes into save her, just in time to see her light another lantern over her own head.

You can imagine what happens to her. And that’s when he sees a woman dressed all in black, yet he can’t get to her, and she won’t come to him.  Again, he goes to his friend, his wife goes into some sort of trance and warns him “Whenever she’s been seen, something horrible happens.”

So what does happens? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

I found this version* of The Woman in Black quite entertaining. Maybe the fact that it’s a Hammer film had something to do with that, but that alone had me hooked from the beginning. Nice to see Hammer still out there. And for the movie itself, as I said, I enjoyed it. Radcliffe did a great job as the curious and brooding Arthur. While the movie does have its creepy moments, it’s not horror per se as we know it today (Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees this is not even though they share themes), nor does it have the gross factor that seems so bloody popular these days. There are some creepy “flash for startling effect” type scenes, but it’s more for those who enjoy Gothic horror like the stories of Poe or other such stories. As a fan of those types of stories, I found the story intriguing and enjoyed the film very much. I look forward to reading Susan Hill’s book someday.

Related links:

The Woman in Black official movie site.

The Woman In Black at IMDB.

The Woman in Black–Hammer Films site.

*I say this version because a quick check of Amazon and the web shows that there are several versions of the story out there, that are a bit more play within a play type stories.