The Woman in Black 2012 REVIEW

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The Woman in Black 2012, the big-screen adaptation of the Susan Hill ghost novel, was released 10 years ago this month. HEATHER ANDOLINA takes a look back on the modern Hammer classic.

Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black 2012
Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black 2012

TITLE: The Woman in Black
DIRECTOR: James Watkins
CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTerr, Liz White

The 2012 film, The Woman in Black, was adapted from the book of the same name from author Susan Hill. Hill’s novel is written in the gothic style, harkening back to works by the earlier gothic writers of the late 18th and 19th centuries such as: Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Henry James to name a few. It is quintessentially a classic traditional English ghost story.  

The film centres on the young Edwardian lawyer Arthur Kipp, played by Daniel Radcliffe. Kipp, widowed, having lost his wife in childbirth, is still in mourning over the loss and has never really gotten over her death. 

He is sent to the English village of Crythin Gifford, where he is to settle the estate of the late Alice Drablow, the deceased owner of an isolated and decrepit manor called Eel Marsh. Kipp is not too enthused of his assignment, but figures it might help keep his mind busy and himself. 

Upon arrival, he finds the villagers are not so welcoming, but becomes acquainted with a local landowner Samuel Daily played by Ciaran Hinds. Kipp also meets a Mr. Jerome, (Tim McMullan), who warns about Eel Marsh Manor, but Kipp pays no attention, and proceeds to the manor to do his job. 

It doesn’t take long before things start to go bump in the night at Eel Marsh Manor. Kipp finds it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand when he is distracted by odd noises, the ethereal sounds of a carriage crashing into the marsh and the cries of a young child, and the sightings of a menacing spectral entity of a woman dressed all in black. Kipp begins to question whether he is losing his mind, or if he is indeed experiencing all of these ghostly occurrences. 

As the film progresses, Kipp learns of the multitude of mysterious, accidental deaths of local children. He realizes that the deaths are not coincidental, and that Eel Marsh Manor has a very disturbing, and sad history that has an eerie connection to the present deaths. He learns that the woman in black lost her only son, and now seeks revenge for his untimely death. Kipp must figure out the truth behind the mysterious woman in black and try to stop the vengeful wraith from killing again.

As mentioned earlier, the film was adapted from the book of the same name. The ending is very different in the book, but what I did like about the film is that it did a wonderful job at creating the eerie, supernatural, and unsettling atmosphere of the gothic novel. The film certainly excels at creating a creepy, ominous mood throughout, and captures the dreary ambience of the early 20th century/Edwardian period. 

The acting is quite good. Radcliffe does a good job as the protagonist Arthur Kipp, portraying him in a very melancholy and sensitive way, but at times his performance felt a bit off. Ciaran Hinds was excellent as Samuel Daily, as well as Janet McTeer as his wife.

The film unfortunately moves at a snail’s pace at times, and the jump scares can be obvious, but when it comes to the mood, atmosphere, and ambience, it truly makes one feel as if they have immersed themselves into a timeless forbidding ghost story.

HEATHER ANDOLINA is an Historian, with a Bachelor’s degree in History from Thomas More University, and a Master’s degree in History from Winthrop University. Her Master’s thesis was published under the title, Haunted by Grief: How Spiritualism Offered Comfort and Stability in the Tragic Life of Mary Lincoln. She has also authored several historical essays for a number of websites. She has extensive museum, archival, and curatorial experience. She is a Co-Owner/Producer at Underbyte Productions.

The Woman in Black 2012 REVIEW

(Review originally published on Spooky Isles 13 February 2012)

DAVID SAUNDERSON reviews the hotly-anticipated Hammer release of The Woman in Black (2012)

Daniel Radcliffe’s first film after the Harry Potter series was always going to get a lot of attention.

The Woman in Black only opened in the UK on Friday but it has already jumped to Number One in Box Office takings – a great achievement for the first gothic Hammer Horror in almost 40 years.

Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black by Jane Goldman and directed by James Watkins, The Woman in Black tells the story of a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), who must visit a remote village to settle a dead woman’s estate. He arrives to discover a community under siege by the ghost who is killing their children.

Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black 2012
Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black 2012

I had not read the novel, seen the play or the previous 1989 version of The Woman in Black before watching it in Islington at the weekend.

Practically all I knew of the film was that it starred Daniel Radcliffe and a female dressed in dark clothing would probably make an appearance.

There has been a lot of hype around this film and many have told me how terrifying the play was. So I went in with high expectations, which unfortunately has left me slightly disappointed.

The Woman in Black had a great crescendo of tension from the word go. From the time Kipps enters the village you know something bad is going to happen.

The village is a dark, unwelcoming place. The weather is bleak and everything seems soggy and unclean.

But it gets down to tick tacks, The Woman in Black just wasn’t as scary as it promised. Not a lot happens in the second half of the film even when The Woman in Black’s terror comes to a head. And the film would have been much creepier if ever scary moment or shock wasn’t emphasised by loud jolting music.

Top marks go to Radcliffe, his fellow cast members and creative crew though. The Woman in Black is a well-made and beautiful looking film and genuinely spooky in parts.

Just lower your expectations when walking into the cinema and you will enjoy much more than I did.

The Woman in Black 2012 Trailer

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