The Woman in Black
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White, Roger Allman, Tim McMullan, Jessica Raine, Shaun Dooley, Daniel Cerquiera, Mary Stockley and David Burke
screenplay by Jane Goldman
directed by James Watkins
Based on the novel by Susan Hill The Woman in Black is a really scary U.K. Film Council horror movie. I was creeped out more than once. This is the first film I have seen Daniel Radcliffe in since the Harry Potter series ended and I thought he did a really good job. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kips, a London solicitor in early twentieth century Edwardian Britain who is sent by his firm into the wild, rural north to close the estate of a recently deceased client. The client’s estate turns out to be a haunted mansion. The house and the local village were really gothic stuff. Imagine the architecture, weather and dark color schemes of films like The Others (2001, starring Nicole Kidman), American Werewolf in London(1981, starring David Naughton), and Sleepy Hollow (1999, starring Johnny Depp) and you get the picture. Creepy, creepy! The pathologically insular villagers are suspicious of any outsiders, especially outsiders interested in the local haunted mansion. There are ghost stories galore and unexplained deaths of children left, right and center. Everything is dark all the time, and the area is further cut off from the rest of the world by lack of electricity and telephones. The only connection to the outside is the periodic steam train service. Also, everywhere is appropriately obscured by the famous English fog/smog. It further accentuates the isolation and the weirdness. There are ghosts hidden in the fog. It’s fear of the unknown more than fear of anything else.
The house is full of old documents that must be reviewed carefully to settle the estate. The building is like a time capsule in that everywhere we look are antique knickknacks preserved by the home’s former occupant as if in hopes of the immanent return of a long-dead child. It is the ghost of this long-dead beloved that ignited the site’s tragedy in the first place. But wherever Kipps looks in the house he finds more caches of old papers - official documents, personal letters, diaries, etc. - under beds, in closets, in locked chests. It’s a solicitor’s nightmare. You would need a team of lawyers in proper light to make sense of it all over a period of weeks, not the mere three days that Kipps is assigned the task. It’s like rummaging around in the Restricted Books section of the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry library late at night by lantern light.