Fuck Harry Potter. With The Woman in Black, Daniel Radcliffe shows that he has some serious acting chops. I had my reservations when I first heard that Radcliffe would be taking the main role in this film, but after watching it, I see that those reservations were stupid and pre-judgemental; probably because I never gave the Harry Potter films much of a chance. I watched the first one briefly before turning it off because it really just wasn’t for me. Regardless, Radcliffe is clearly a skilled and accomplished actor at a relatively young age.
The original 1989, British TV film, The Woman in Black, is one of my all-time favorite horror films, so I was definitely skeptical that this one could live up to the genuine creepy atmosphere of that one. I was wrong.
Arthur Kipps is a struggling young lawyer who is given the assignment by his asshole boss, to go to this village to take care of some paper work for a woman who had recently passed away. What he didn’t tell him was that this would be the shittiest assignment in that law firm’s history. Arthur is basically told if he does not get the job done, he won’t have a job when he gets back.
On top of all this pressure, Arthur is also still grieving his wife’s death. Arthur’s wife dies after giving birth to their son four years previously. Arthur begrudgingly leaves his son with the cute nanny while he travels to this ill-begotten village to take care of some terrible business.
Once at the village, Arthur is not greeted well by the locals, although, he did make a friend on the train on the way there. Arthur is fortunate enough to be given the attic-room at the local Inn, which is also the same room where we are shown via a flash-back scene to open the movie, three young girls kill themselves. This attic is creepy as hell, and is just one of this film’s many amazingly haunting set-pieces.
Arthur takes the trip to the massive house called the Eel Marsh House, that belonged to the deceased woman, Mrs. Drablow. The cinematography of the long-winding road leading to this god-forsaken house, is breath-taking and the film-maker pulled no punches with making sure the atmosphere was rich with an impending sense of dread. The house itself doesn’t seem like the kind of place anyone in their right mind would want to spend even five minutes in, let-alone stay there to complete paperwork. Arthur is a trooper though and has plenty of motivation as to why he needs to get this shit done; suck it up, or lose your job.
The Eel Marsh House does not lack in character. Sure, a lot of it has been seen a million times before in previous ghost story flicks, but this one is right up there with one of the creepiest I’ve seen on film. Of course, there is a darkness that pervades the entire house, where even the strongest candle lights don’t really do much for visibility. The shadows were expertly captured and was the perfect set-up for the tormented haunting Arthur was going to have to go through. Each room is filled with stuff made from children’s nightmares. Old porcelain dolls, clown figurines, and stuffed monkeys, all add to the unpleasant surroundings.
It doesn’t take long for Arthur to see The Woman in Black – as she wastes no time in letting him know he is making a big mistake in being there, and her shit is not to be messed with. Arthur goes back to the village where again, nobody is happy to see him, and the fact that all of a sudden the children in the village begin dying, doesn’t help matters much and he is in no uncertain terms told to get the hell out of dodge. Arthur persists though, and he heads back to the mansion to attempt to unravel this mystery of The Woman in Black.
As it turns out The Woman in Black is really pissed and holding a grudge towards the entire village for the death of her son. As a result, she will “never forgive” and anytime her ghostly figure is seen by anyone, children in the village will die via suicide from The Woman in Black’s power over them. Arthur and his skeptical friend, who has many issues all-his-own, begin to search for the body of the Woman in Black’s son. What ensues is a bunch of stuff that you might not be blamed for accusing of being “cliche”, however, everything is executed so well, that I really can’t hold it against this film if some of the “scares” have been done before. It must be the way some of the shots are done so cleverly, that makes up for any cliche-ridden sins. There are plenty of genuinely atmospheric and creepy scenes in this one that I think even the most jaded fan of horror movies will appreciate.
Surprisingly enough for me, I think this remake is actually better than the original – with the exception of one very frightful scene from the original film that they did not capture as well in this one – if at all, really. The pacing is much better in the remake, in my opinion, and the performances have much more life to them. I still have to give the nod to the original Woman in Black herself though – who I feel is much more “realistic” in her portrayl of an angry spirit, though much more subtle than some of the aggressive actions this version’s Woman in Black takes. It’s not that the CGI used at times is bad, but it will never be as good as straight-forward costume-wearing actors.
I would highly encourage anyone to check out the original Woman in Black film, as it still is to this day, one of my personal favorite ghost stories. This remake, though, does stand up strongly on it’s own and a high quality horror film in every aspect. The ending is down-beat but very effective; although most viewers will see it coming from a mile away. It just goes to show…some grudges will never end.
The Horror Booth gives this one a rock-solid 4/5