Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creepy, Classic Ghosties in The Woman in Black

Hammer Films has come back to classic ghost story (since their return to vampires in 2010's Let Me In, the remake of Sweden's Let the Right One In) with their latest film production of Susan Hill's 1983 novel, The Woman in Black. Starring the ever watchable Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, The Woman in Black, is shot in Essex, England, including exteriors on Osea Island in the Blackwater Estuary. Locations include a few classic railway stations to transport you back to the turn of the century, remote village life in northeast England.

New-ish director James Watkins is not new to horror with having made The Descent 2 and Eden Lake. Watkins honors the novel in giving the film a respectfully ornate, gothic production that creeps under your skin. Art Direction is by Paul Ghirardani known for being the Art Director on TV productions of "Little Dorrit," "Great Expectations," and "Sense and Sensibility". The introduction to the isolated wilderness, the weather, and the haunted Eel Marsh House is a slight nod to gothic classics such as The Old Dark House and The Haunting.

However, the film, as well as Hill's novel, is more geared towards the purpose to which ghosts return and how the living investigate why a ghost obsessively directs them to their history. The ghosts lurk over their shoulders and cause havoc in The Woman in Black and Kipps knows he will get to the bottom of their wrath if only the living don't get in the way of the dead. Watkins' delicate method of showing blood only when it is absolutely necessary makes tragic situations all the more morose. The villagers are terrorized, with the muted colors, no one looks well-rested, nor adequately nourished, and there's a heaviness to all the unwelcome eyes cast down upon Arthur's visitation.

Janet McTeer portrays Mrs. Daily, who has a foreboding presence with a history of becoming hysterical. We are forewarned by her husband, who hosts Arthur Kipps for his first dinner at their home, not to mention children. She slowly unravels as does their story, and as do all the townsfolk's stories of tragedy. The villagers curse Kipps presence, but little do they know how he intends to help them, though all of his intentions do not lift the ghost's need for revenge. Eel Marsh House's ghost is beyond being able to forgive and forget no matter how Kipps understands the truth as he then tries to bury the sorrow and quell the angry spirit.

Five out of five headless dolls; for being creepifyingly excellent.

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