“During afternoon tea
There’s a shift in the air
That tells you she’s there
There are those who believe
That the whole town is cursed
But the house in the marsh
Is by far the worst
What she wants is unknown
But she always comes back
The spectre of darkness
The Woman in Black.”
It is in the small town of Crythin Gifford in the misty marshes of northeast England, overlooked by the strange Eel Marsh House, that the children in “The Woman in Black” lament this poem.
It’s here that the horror-depicted in Susan Hill’s novel of the same name ensues. Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), travels to Crythin Gifford to settle the final affairs of the late Alice Drablow. However, there’s a secret about the town that tries to put him on a train as soon as he arrives. Something that propels them to beg Kipps to not go to Eel Marsh House. Something that, if seen, will mean the imminent death of a child by the malevolent Woman in Black (Liz White). Now that Kipps’s son, Joseph (Radcliffe’s godson, Misha Handley), is at risk, he must solve the mystery of the ghost of the Woman in Black and put her at peace before she takes the only family he has left.
Yet “The Woman in Black” is so much more than the story of a haunting. It is a macabre treasure hunt set forth by a tortured spirit (the titular Woman in Black), who has vowed to seek revenge for the wrongful loss of her son. The story becomes tragically beautiful, a gorgeous depiction of the effects of loss and woe and what it will drive a person to do.
To increase the feeling of an unabating presence, director James Watkins uses scenery in a very effective way. By producing small shadows in inconspicuous places in the shot, or capturing a glimpse of a figure in a mirror in the corner of the screen, Watkins puts you in the place of Arthur Kipps — you always see a little disturbance out of the corner of your eye, but you never see what haunts you full-on. In this way, the character of the Woman in Black is much more mysterious and disquieting.
For the die-hard Potter fans and skeptics alike, I’m here to set the record straight. Radcliffe has proven that he can shed his Potter facade and really become a new character, in turn playing such a convincing role that you clean forget he vanquished the Dark Lord only five months earlier.
To say that this is arguably one of the freshest films to grace the horror genre recently would be an understatement. Iconic to the horror industry, the British film production company Hammer manages to make a classic ghost story completely horrifying without the use of gore or other modern practices. Pure psychology and sentimentality is what makes this particular story stick with viewers. So if you’re mom’s a screamer, don’t take her to see this film. I already made that mistake; but I’d rather see it with her than alone in a shadowy screening room.