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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Woman in Black

I saw this movie during its original cinema run and was mighty impressed, but I wanted to watch it in more intimate surroundings and so I picked up the Blu-Ray which was released earlier this week. And I found it even better the second time around. Of course there’s no blood and gore and the movie relies on storytelling and atmosphere to create the scares, which away from the shared audience experience of the multiplex, really hit home. It’s a quiet film, a slow burner and it needs the viewers full concentration to get the most out of its cleverly told and acted story.

The plot should be known by the world and his dog but to recap = Harry Potter plays a single father who is still grieving the death of his wife during the birth of their baby son. He is sent to a remote coastal village to put the affairs of a deceased woman in order, before her house can be put on the market, but the house is haunted by the woman in black, a malevolent spirit who is revenging herself on the villagers who she feels failed to save her son from drowning in a mud pond. The film is visually rich and impressively atmospheric, harking back to the Hammer movies of yore. The viewer’s nerves are kept taught throughout, with wind-up dolls springing suddenly to life and the light glinting off the eyes of a toy monkey giving every impression of a malign supernatural force at play. It is to the director’s credit that none of this feels too hackneyed and the eponymous woman in black (Liz White) is played with unforgettable menace.

The movie has been a big success for the  resurrected Hammer Films and will hopefully set off a cycle of period horror movies, which was always something that Hammer did best. I’m not too sure that Harry Potter holds the  gravitas required to carry the part, and he does seem far too young to play a tortured widower with a four year old son, but it was probably his name which lured the hordes into cinemas to see this low key ghost story so his casting was likely a masterstroke.  In fairness though Harry Potter does well with a challenging role and often his youth serves as a reminder that he is an outsider in the village, but he does seem to downplay the scares and often comes across as oddly emotionless.
There are many changes from the novel but for the most part they improve on Susan Hill’s original story, but the ending is something of a let down  – Hill’s original story  had an ending that haunts you long after turning the final page, but the movie  wraps it all up quite neatly. Still  the film deserves kudos for proving that  a defiantly British, old-school horror movie devoid of sex, violence and profanity can be box office gold.

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