Feb 4, 2012

The Woman in Black

Image Courtesy {link}
Last night I saw The Woman in Black and had a really good time. This was a ghost story along the lines of The Others. The movie was well acted, didn't drag and had a simple, straightforward story to tell.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a lawyer sent by his London firm to the town of Crythin Gifford to examine and put in order the documents of the late widow of Eel Marsh House, an old estate home on an island in the coastal marsh near the town. Upon arriving the townsfolk try to get him to return to London both with their brusque manner and by refusing to aid him. He persists in going to the estate anyway. In going through the vast collection of papers and letters he finds, we begin to learn the tragic history of the family of Eel Marsh House and how it has involved the terrified villagers.

The film relies heavily on the setting to build an uneasy feeling. The village is small and feels devoid of color. There is a persistent coastal fog and mist the seems to have leeched the color, and thus life, from the village and the people. The island is accessible by a dirt track that is washed out twice a day by the tides, leaving a boggy marsh at low tide. Trees have grown rampantly on the island, the house looks disheveled. Inside are layers of dust, cobwebs, dark woods and faded colors that seem to suck what little light enters right out of the air. It is just what you have always imagined a haunted house to look like. It is adorned with the trappings of a wealthy family that has traveled. Creepy statues, busts and dolls fill alcoves along the hallways and heavy cast iron candelabras add a sense of unease and weight. The set design and art direction were really very good.

Daniel Radcliffe is alone for the majority of the movie and must carry it himself. No easy task for any actor, having to act with the sets rather than another person, but he does it very well. I was curious to see how he would do as he hasn't done  much besides Harry Potter. Happily I did not spend the duration of the film picturing him as Harry Potter. He did a great job presenting the character. The only other major characters in the film are a wealthy land owning couple Arthur meets on the way to the town, Mr. and Mrs. Daily. Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) is the one person Arthur can confide in and trust, though it turns out even this couple, often shown symbolically in full sunlight rather than foggy grey, has been touched by the tragedy of Eel Marsh House and hide their secret.

Though it follows the usual method of escalating haunts, the film doesn't feel tired. I think having Daniel Radcliffe in a setting we are so unaccustomed to seeing him in helps it feel fresh. There are several "gotcha" scares, but they are well executed. Most of the time, it is what you don't see that brings on the creepy feeling. Motion on the edge of a frame, in a mirror, a shadow in the dark distance. Shapes that were steady suddenly moving, etc. There are a couple of shots that I hadn't seen anywhere else and got a bit of a jump out of me.

I won't spoil the ending of the film, but will say that it was absolutely perfect. I can not think of any other way this film could have ended as happily as it did while still maintaining the horror of the story. I know some of you will be scratching your heads in wonderment, but I promise, this was actually a happy ending.

It isn't a groundbreaking horror film by any means, but it was very well executed and genuinely acted and that made it a lot of fun to watch and buy into. My wife and I both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and would recommend it to anyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment