Do you like ghost stories?
Really like ghost stories? Then get in, strap in and come along.
I’ve been looking forward to this new release after seeing both the 1989 version and the stage show (strange but true).
The Woman In Black is a story set in the Coastal village of Crythin Gifford in the UK in the early 1900’s. It is a dark, cold and heavy place. Joyless children with expressionless faces stare from windows. Sullen adults offer no welcome or are borderline hostile. Most people with a small amount of intuition would turn and leave. Quickly. Arthur Kipps a young widowed solicitor (Daniel Radcliffe) travels from London to the village. He has no choice but to stay. Sent on assignment – this is his last chance with his law firm – to attend to the affairs of Alice Drablow who has recently died. She used to live in isolated and sinister Eel Marsh House. Kipps assignment seems straightforward. Gather all of Alice Drablow’s papers and execute her estate. Normally this would be done by the local solicitor in Crythin Gifford. However he is being uncooperative for some reason. To do this Kipps must go to Eel March house and rummage through all of Alice Drablow’s belongings. Document by document, artefact by artefact Kipps begins to piece together a horrible story – surrounded by noises, shadows and a palpable atmosphere of dread and menace. Children in the village have started dying – in ghastly circumstances linked to appearances of a “Woman in Black”. Alice Drablow’s son, Nathaniel died when he was 7, drowning in the marsh surrounding Eel Marsh house – his body never recovered. Is the Woman in Black, Alice Drablow? Haunting the village from sheer force of grief over her sons death? It is more unsettling than that. We see and feel Kipps travel that journey from rationality to a dawning of wild horror at what must not be – but is.
This film just gets it right. Daniel Radcliffe gets it right. If Eel March House has location, location, location then this film backs it up with Atmosphere, Atmosphere, Atmosphere. Not an element is out of place – from the production values to the direction and the acting. Whilst there are some stock horror techniques employed for the most part the director is very skilled at layering the dread over and over again – sometimes releasing, sometimes not. A mood of unease is set from the start (with the death of Kipp’s wife in childbirth, and his now four year old son unhappy at the separation whilst his father must attend to this business). One local who does befriend and support Kipps is the wealthy Daily who does not believe in the ghost or the spiritual turmoil that has engulfed so many in the Village (and it must be said much of England at that time). It turns out his son was a victim some years ago. His wife driven mad by the loss seems to commune with her son.
After Daily brings Kipps back from a harrowing ordeal at Eel Marsh house, Kipps questions Daily – ‘surely after all you’ve observed and been through, do you not believe in the woman?’. In a quietly disturbing answer Daily admits to Kipps that he forces himself not to believe – because the alternative is unthinkable and unbearable. He is keeping his sanity against all evidence.
This film will be watched by two types of people and they reflect the two main characters Kipps and Daily.
The viewers like Daily will stop themselves going on the ride – will stay on the side of the rational and look for flaws and distractions and not get much from this film.
I urge you to watch this like Kipps. You will start to believe. And you won’t like it. But that is the point.