The Woman in Black, 2012.
Directed by James Watkins.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds, Sophie Stuckey and Liz White.
Young lawyer Arthur Kipps travels to a small village to settle the affairs of the lady of Eel Marsh House, to discover the villagers are tormented by a very vengeful ghost.
The Woman in Black sets its dark macabre tone from the offset. The very first scene is creepy, and as the plot progresses, things only get creepier. It is for this reason that the BBFC cuts are absolutely ludicrous.
Some time ago, I stumbled across an article about the BBFC requesting cuts and edits to allow for a 12A rating instead of a 15, for obvious reasons of wishing to appeal to larger audience. The article angered me a little, as jeopardising the tone of a film for the sake of more bums on seats (because let’s face it, with a DVD release, certification means very little), is sickening.
But let me explain why the BBFC cuts are so ridiculous. Y’see, The Woman in Black was made a 12A with the BBFC’s advice in place, but having watched the film the tone and narrative are still too dark for such an age rating. Without giving away any spoilers, there are some very dark elements to this film. It is these elements that make this film so scary – not the cheap quick jumps of a conventional horror.
The classic ‘ghost story’ conventions are followed very well in this adaptation of the Susan Hill novel. It’s at this point I must admit I have not read the book, or experienced any other form of adaptation. I have always been curious about the stage show, and the film has further sparked that curiosity. I hear that Jane Goldman, who adapted the screenplay, made some significant changes to the novel, as many adaptations do. Whether these are for the better or worse, I’m unsure, but the story played out before me was one that was relatively gripping and suitably tense. There are twists and turns you are not expecting, and it keeps you on your toes.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the titular character Arthur Kipps. He plays a father who has a 4 year old son, which is pretty hard to get your head around. Even with stubble and of-era sideburns, Dan Rad is barely older than me – a notion I cannot see past. However, he does do a fantastic job at carrying the character anyway, proving that he does have acting ability. In a few of the Harry Potter films his acting abilities are questionable, but playing the Boy Who Lived must have given him some valuable practice for meatier parts like the young solicitor tasked with dealing with the will of a reclusive widow.
Eel Marsh House, cut off from the rest of the world during a high tide over the marshes of Crythin Gifford, is a suitable setting for haunted happenings. The set design of the house is stunning, with period furniture, fittings and particularly creepy toys. The costume is also wonderful and clearly well thought out. The soundtrack to The Woman in Black is typical of the genre and accentuates the tone effectively. Unlike many other modern horrors, it is subtle, not scene-stealing.
The Woman in Black is a great ghost story. Luckily it does not feel like it could have been pushed further following the BBFC’s cuts, but rather that the age rating should have always been a 15.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★