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The Woman in Black

A movie directed by James Watkins

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Leaves you feeling spooked and delightfully jumpy. A worthy homage to Gothic horror cinema.

  • Feb 13, 2012
*** out of ****

There's a fascinating scene in "The Woman in Black" where an eye scans a condensed room through a peephole in the door that conceals all that lies within it. The camera, mimicking the eye, moves from place-to-place; perhaps hoping to see or find something worth writing home about. After a few considerably well-spent seconds of searching; a shadow appears from out of the corner of the eye. The camera chases the source of this apparition; and it appears almost instantly in the form of a screaming little girl with ghostly, pale skin.

The eye belongs to Arthur (Daniel Radcliffe); father, family man, widower (wife died in childbirth), and solicitor. He's plagued by sad, haunting visions of his wife as he knew her when she breathed and prospered; and his emotional unbalance often gets in the way of the life that's ahead of him. Regardless, the film opens on him as he is leaving for his next job; renovating the estate of a woman named Alice Drablow, whose house is located nearby a large marsh.

Arthur spends his nights at a local inn; in a particularly ominous little room with three windows. The locals of the area are genuinely unwelcoming, although a few show signs of hospitality. Just two of them include the kindly landowner Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) and his wife Elizabeth (Janet McTeer). They too have suffered a great loss; they've lost their son to a terrible drowning incident. Elizabeth doesn't appear to have fully recovered from the trauma; and sometimes, she believes that the soul of her child speaks through her from beyond the grave - possesses her, if you will, and communicates through written message.

As if this weren't strange enough, just wait until you get a look at the house that Arthur has to visit each day and eventually tidy up a bit. "The Woman in Black" is a refreshingly old-fashion haunted house horror flick in which the house is the stuff that nightmares are made of; literally. The house itself renders the film deserving of some solid points; while what goes on while Arthur and company are within it is enough to combine with the visual look of the building to create a successful whole.

I won't spoil what happens; although there are still a few details that I feel you must know when you go in. The title refers to a creepy old woman dressed in all black who is often seen lingering around the premises. She's obviously got a complex and disturbing link to this house; and who knows, she might even be Alice Drablow, the owner. Perhaps she can explain the creepy triple-child suicide scene that effectively opens the film. Perhaps...I'm done. This woman in black; she's a complicated lady.

Hammer Films Productions has been experienced some sort of revival as of recent; with films like "Let Me In", "Wake Wood", and of course, "The Woman in Black" being released under the legendary production company's name. I'd say that they're making damn good progress as far as this revival goes (save for "The Resident"; which was rather unfortunate). I'd sure be pleased if I hired somebody to do a job like this, only to have them emerge as proud and successful as director James Watkins (Eden Lake) seems to be. "The Woman in Black" is a respectably old-fashioned horror show; it's creepy, it's shocking, and it doesn't give in to the blood-crazed fan-base that the horror genre has acquired over the years. It's virtually without blood and gore; instead making way for a handful of creepy, and even artistic images with a Gothic horror twist. And as far as the whole Gothic feel goes, this film is unusually successful; and it doesn't sacrifice scares for visual spectacle.

"The Woman in Black" can either be appreciated for what it is - a well-made, well-acted, creepy haunted house thrill-ride - or it can be reviled by those who label it as being "too slow" or "annoyingly dependent on cheap jump scares". Indeed, it is slow, and it does have jump scares, but it's thoroughly engaging because it makes both of these things fun to watch unfold. These "jump scares" are never annoying; in fact, I'd say they're pretty enjoyable, for the most part. Yes, the consistency in the jump scares is a noticeable flaw - and "The Woman in Black" isn't exactly a terrifying film - but it's still an impressive and plenty scary one, riddled with plenty of nostalgic yearning and atmosphere born from pure, bewitching style.

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More The Woman in Black (2012 film) reviews
review by . February 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A Somewhat Enjoyable Homage To Classic Hammer Horror Films...
There is some hype surrounding director James Watkins’ film “The Woman in Black”. For one thing, Watkins has been known for the sleeper horror hit “Eden Lake”, this film resurrects the almost forgotten British horror studio “Hammer”, and for the last thing, it is Daniel Radcliffe’s first post “Harry Potter” role. Now does the hype stand up to the quality of the final film? Well, it is a well-made film, and admittedly it has its merits as …
review by . February 09, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
From the first frame of this movie, you know bad things will happen.  Everything on the screen, soundtrack, and dialogue is so dark and full of foreboding sounds and dark colors that it almost felt like an old Saturday afternoon Hammer film (hint:  it is a Hammer film!  They're back, and apparently not much has changed since  . . . !!!!).   I was almost expecting a title card saying "It was a dark and stormy night. . . . "  The unrelieved gloom and doom …
review by . February 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         An early twentieth century setting. English marshland shrouded in fog. Rain, thunder, and lightning.  A graveyard shrouded in ivy and dead twigs. A decaying mansion high atop a hill. Rooms blanketed in dust and cobwebs. Dark hallways faintly lit by candlelight. The sounds of whispers and crying bouncing off the walls. A shadowy figure stalking the premises. From the first frame to the last, The Woman in Black looks and feels exactly the way …
review by . February 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
What happened to the dog?
In the early 1900s, young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to a remote village to go through the papers of a recently deceased old woman. He finds the villagers oddly hostile, yet sets about his work in the woman’s creepy, old house. There, he begins to unravel the story of a mysterious woman believed to haunt the place.      If you’re looking for a scary movie, look no further. There are scares every four minutes or so once Arthur starts (voluntarily …
Quick Tip by . February 01, 2012
Hey hey!    Anyone looking for a little extra insight into THE WOMAN IN BLACK, should check out my interview with its star, Daniel Radcliffe ...    http://www.blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/20...s-daniel-radcliffe.html    Thanks for reading!
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


  • Opens tomorrow, February 3, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 35 min.
  • PG-13
    Thematic material and violence/disturbing images
  • Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), recently widowed and still grieving the loss of his wife, is sent to a remote village to put a deceased eccentric's affairs in order. But soon after his arrival, it becomes clear that the villagers are hiding a deadly secret. Kipps discovers that his late client's house is haunted by the spirit of a woman who is trying to find someone and something she lost, and that no one -- not even the children -- is safe from her terrible wrath.
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe
  • Director: James Watkins
  • Genres: Haunted House Film, Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural Thriller
  • Teaser poster art for "The Woman in Black."
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