Review: The Woman in Black

Well, I know what some critics said about it. It’s not “scary” in the new tradition (astounding special effects), but in the old way, it’s spooky. In other words, you scare yourself.

Critics who said that Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter film The Woman in Black plays out like an old 60s or 70s horror movie were, in fact, complimenting it, in my opinion. Today’s movie-going horror fan expects something quite different than those of the past. In 2012, we want to be amazed as well as terrified. Me? If I’m going to watch a scary movie (and I definitely do not enjoy the experience, believe me), I want it to scare me from the inside. To me, that’s where the true nightmares lie: in one’s own mind. That’s why, if I have to choose a favorite category of scary film, I’ll go for a ghost story any day. They just creep me out the most.

Woman in Black, based on the 1983 novel by Susan R. Hill, tells the tale of a vengeful, menacing spirit that terrorizes a small English village. Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a young lawyer, is dispatched to the town to sew up the legal affairs of a reclusive widow who recently died in a craggy, creepy old mansion that no one dared to go near. He finds the townspeople extremely unfriendly and suspicious. As the story unfolds, Kipps is sucked further and further into the horrifying history of the house and its inhabitants.

He sees the spectre of a woman dressed in black, and eventually discovers that every time someone sees this apparition, a child dies.

The “scary” for me in this film, of course, was largely of the “jump-out-and-BOO!” variety. I hate that. Tortured, ghoulish faces appear out of nowhere, and inanimate objects move — all accompanied by the obligatory orchestral chord jab. Scares the livin’ carp outta me. Thank goodness for my blanket; it helps me through those difficult passages.

Thing is, the obligatory orchestral chord jab is used — and used and used and used and used — until you’re almost no longer listening to dialogue or following plot. Rather, you’re just preparing for the next jump-out-and-BOO! It was distracting to me. Add to it the beyond cheesy ending (complete with one final obligatory orchestral chord jab), and I must say the experience was somewhat lacking. Less than fulfilling. Not a waste of time, but something I’d never watch twice.

Not that scary movies are things I ever watch more than once…

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give The Woman in Black:

11 thoughts on “Review: The Woman in Black

  1. Suzanne

    HAA I can just see you sitting there with your blanky! I am like you, give me a creepy story like Hitchcock’s Birds or Psycho. The “you know something creepy is out there but OMG what is it???? and you want to know but not really…….

    Just like illusionists that are really good. You want to know how they do it but not really cuz then that would spoil the fun and suspense.

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Precisely! In most horror movies, it’s all done *for* you. The viewer doesn’t have to “work” to be part of the story. The imagination muscle gets no stretching. I liked the totally creeped-out feeling I got when I realized what was going on in The Sixth Sense. Did you see that one?

      Reply
      1. Suzanne

        I did see it but unfortunately I knew what was going on before I saw it. Someone blabbed it all over a forum I used to go to. But I still enjoyed it.

        Lots of people thought Blair Witch Hunt was stupid (maybe you? haaa) but it totally creeped me out, especially the ending. I don’t know how I managed to go camping in the deep deep woods of N. Michigan when I was a kid because that would totally creep me out now. Not because of BWH of course, it’s just my own silly imagination that’s seen too many slasher in the woods movies. :)

        Reply
  2. Tom Hanks

    I agree the whole “surprise jump with orchestra stab” is getting old. Might as well have a black screen with scary loud noises put in here and there because it would be the same thing…the audience sitting waiting for the next jarring stimuli to react to.

    Agreed on the psychological aspect of what makes a film scary. Plain scary isn’t good enough….I want compelling scary, beautiful scary, unsettling scary and for the right reasons.

    My favorite “horror” or “thriller” films are probably The Shining, Psycho, and if it counts Jaws. Jaws actually has the best horror scare in film history imo…the fishermans head floating out of the bottom of the wrecked boat when Richard Dreyfuss is investigating underwater. The awesome thing about that shot is that the head floats out and there is no orchestra stab at first. It gives the audience a half second to react on their own and then a half second later the orchestra stab/sound effect kicks in to back up and amplify what they are already feeling. Its a subtle difference but I think its better. Masterful stuff from the Bergster.

    Not the scariest film or the most thrilling but one of my favorite movies is The Village by M. Night Shyamalan. One of the most beautiful movies I have seen too, visually and musically.. it connects with what I find to be beautiful anyway. When the movie came out everyone was disappointed by the ending of it but what they found disappointing I found more compelling and perhaps creepier than what the beginning of the film would have you believe things to be. I’d be curious to know what you thought of it if you have seen it.

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Oh yes, I’ve seen The Village — at your house, long ago, with Schminkleman. That’s the kind of “scare” I’m talking about. Understated; more of a nudge than a slam over the head, the latter being what people seem to expect nowadays, or they’re disappointed. IMO, nudges can be even more sinister and disturbing. Give your fright sensibilities a fish and they’ll eat for a day; teach them to fish for hidden horrors… :-)

      Hated that scene in Jaws! But it was scary in a real way. There’s a similar scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and some others.

      I’m with Suzanne on Blair Witch Project. Scared me to death, and there wasn’t a single CG monster to be found. “IT” freaked me out for days — I have never looked at Tim Curry the same ever since, haha.

      Reply
      1. Rat Fink Post author

        PS — have you ever seen The Deer Hunter? I don’t even remember the ride home from the theater…

        Reply
        1. Rat Fink Post author

          And the scene with the TV in The Ring — I’d never full-out screamed in my own living room till that night.

          Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Well then you know what I mean when I refer to the final Russian Roulette scene…yikes.

      Reply
  3. hulk

    I have read a lot of reviews on this movie some were good and bad. I even had a few of my Dish co-workers told me the whole story lol and yet I still want to watch it. I really liked the review of The Woman in Black. When I was looking at Blockbuster @Home, I ran across it in Blu-ray so I ordered it. I should be getting it in the mail soon. I’ll let you know what I think about it.

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Definitely report back and tell us what you thought. If you’re anything like me, you jump to the ceiling in those kinds of movies. If not, it may be a bit boring for you. Interested in your take!

      Reply

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