Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Woman in Black – directed by James Watkins/Script Jane Goldman

Based on the novel and subsequent stage play by Susan Hill, this 2012 adaptation to film was a lot of fun, classic ghostie tricks, loud bangs, unexpected banshee like shrieks, creepy toys, dark corners and a self moving rocking chair no less. 

I am no Hammer Horror aficionado but I think this film did what Hammer does best; an archetypal, somewhat old fashioned British ghost story, no sex, no gore; all quite refreshing with unpredictable nature in the form of fatalistic marshes, dangerous tides and trees that whisper, scary villagers warnings and creepy children, dead and alive. Please, please leave this one alone Hollywood.

Maybe not having seen any Harry Potter films (I’ve never flown either, I know, shocking) gave me a slight advantage on the Radcliffe post-Potter critique front but I did however slightly snigger when he got on an authentic choo choo train, obviously minus a school uniform.

If there’s one thing Susan Hill’s ghosts are, it is vengeful, bitter and they don’t let up; the film portrayed this wonderfully and even if you know the book inside out, the atmosphere did keep you in suspense. And of course, Jane Goldman’s script tweaked it somewhat, something you have to just accept otherwise you would never see a film after reading a book without leaving the cinema enraged.

Location wise it was perfect, the grimly oppressive village, the misty causeway to the isolated Eel Marsh House that’s stunningly dark grandeur had the imposition of a haunted house; formulaic maybe as are Susan Hill stories if you’ve read any of her others, but if it works, so be it. 

Cast wise, a see of British actors from a variety of televisual and film backgrounds, all good but with nobody really stealing the show so to speak, perhaps maybe the glassy eyed pallor of assorted dismal curse ridden children.

The ending is, well I think it was softened, trying hard not to give it away now, kind of faithful to the original story in tone and outcome but not so in finer detail…I taught this book a few years back and it would lend well to a discursive essay on tragedy and finality and which ending could be seen as more so in respect of death and spirituality.  The overall feel in this story was loyally kept in the dark vein of the impossibility of any resting in peace, the wicked of the earth bound lingering on the other side to wreak more revenge and cruelty as punishment.

If there’s an ounce of goth in you anywhere, you will want to raid the Hammer props cupboard after seeing this film and engage in some dark side feng shui. Resplendent jump factor and first rate spookiness set in a museum of creepy childhood indeed, admittedly I do prefer the book but a worthwhile film nevertheless.

Leading Cast:

Daniel Radcliffe - Arthur Kipps
Ciaran Hines - Sam Daily
Janet McTeer - Elizabeth Daily
Sophie Stuckey - Stella Kipps
Misha Handley - Joseph Kipps
Liz White - Jennet Humfrye
Jessica Raine - Joseph's nanny

Related Post:
The Small Hand by Susan Hill: Book Review

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read the book. Ordering it now. Then I will watch the film.