The Woman in Black is based on a short story by the fantastic Susan Hill. It is also one of those rare occasions when I can stand up and proudly announce that I have not only read the book but also seen the play.
This is a complete deviation from my usual disclaimer.
PLOT: Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer who is struggling to get over the death of his wife. Arthur is sent to Eel Marsh House which is situated in a remote coastal corner of England to wind up the estate of the late Mrs Drablow. As Arthur trawls through endless amounts of paperwork he begins to notice strange noises and goings on within the empty house. After being asked to leave the village by the residents Arthur refuses and heads back to Eel Marsh House where he encounters a strange Woman in Black. The haunting escalates as Arthur tries to find out who the Woman in Black is and what she wants. END PLOT
The screenplay was written by Jane Goldman a writer who I will always give the benefit of the doubt to but liberties have been taken with the novel and some changes have been made the most noticeable being the ending. I have no real complaints about this and the changed bitter/sweet ending was very satisfactory.
The scares start of slow and gradually build as Arthur stays in the house. Some of the scares are predictable and others are not, either way I find porcelain dolls and stuffed monkeys terrifying so I was on edge for the vast majority of the film. The Woman in Black is one of those films that I was completely engrossed in yet my eyes couldn't relax as I was constantly trying to look past Daniel Radcliffe in order to pre-empt the scares.
The entire film is grey and looks cold and bleak which fits in nicely with the tone. There is next to no humour and very few of the scares created a suppressed giggle from the audience.
The Woman in Black looked amazing and the director, James Watkins, created a genuinely spooky atmosphere. There was a fantastic shot of candle light reflecting in the eyes of the stuffed animals which created the impression that they were following Arthur across the room – it was a great moment.
The Woman in Black is Watkins’ second film the first being the cleverer than expected Eden Lake. Hopefully we will see a lot more from Watkins in the future as I am officially a fan.
I had major reservations about Daniel Radcliffe’s first significant Post Potter role being the lead in this film. It never sat right with me and although I honestly do believe that Radcliffe was a couple of years to young to play Arthur Kipps he put in a very solid performance.
In sections of the film Arthur is alone inside Eel Marsh House and there is very little dialogue however Radcliffe’s silent performance was more than enough to carry the film. Without the glasses Radcliffe is completely removed from the Potter character. Thankfully.
The only problem with The Woman in Black is the rating. I could never understand or accept the 12A certificate as I thought it should have been at the very least at 15. Now that I have watched the film I do think that it was heavily edited, especially in the middle section, to tone down the scares and tension to get a lighter rating. The fact that Daily’s (Ciaran Hinds) dog Spider, who gave Arthur so much comfort in the novel, disappeared mid scene never to be spoken of again doesn’t ease my suspicions.
The Woman In Black was a highly and nervously anticipated film which did not disappoint. It gets an 8/10. I will probably pick it up again on dvd when the time comes however it is a film best enjoyed on the big screen.