Friday, February 3, 2012

The Woman in Black

A whole lot of buildup for a little bit of payoff. Made for fans of classic horror flicks.

Rated PG-13

for thematic material and violence/disturbing images.

The Woman in Black

I’m a fan of decent horror movies, which is to say that I hardly like any of the films that come out lately promising to get me spooked.  Most of them are a collection of surprises instead of scares, and “The Woman In Black” certainly has its fair share of those cheap, made-you-jump shots.
But it also has Daniel Radcliffe, an actor most of us have grown up with, and grown to like watching.  That’s a good thing, as much of “Woman” is watching Radcliffe explore the mystery behind an old abandoned house.  Much of this build-up reminded me of the pacing from “The Exorcist,” a build-up movie if there ever was one.  “Woman” utilizes all of the classic horror movie requisites to good effect: creaky doors, isolated old houses in remote villages, locked basements, zombie children, and those stupid, creepy, wind-up toys!  Set in a time when the automobile is seen as an extravagance, TWIB benefits from a dearth of modern tools and a wealth of superstitious villagers.
But problems come with the stakes in the movie and how people handle them.  The ghost of The Woman in question takes a child’s life every time she is seen by a villager.  So why weren’t the warnings for Radcliffe’s “Arthur Kipps” to stay away from her mansion MUCH more stern?  It’s a life and death situation if he even sees her, and she has no problem showing herself, as she does almost right away.
The predictable ghost story at the center of TWIB runs almost second to the story of Kipps, who is in a state of perpetual mourning over the loss of his wife while giving birth to their son, years ago.  But the very end of TWIB seems a bit weak given the massive build-up for much of the movie.  This conclusion has some puzzled, and I’d like to offer my two cents.

Here come the spoilers, by the way.

Without going into it too much, while she was alive, The Woman in question lost her own son twice; once through a forced adoption by her sister, and then to his death in the marshes surrounding their isolated home.  She felt her sister could have done more to save him, and indeed his body was never even recovered.  She later kills herself, thus becoming The Woman In Black; forever mourning the death of her own son, and taking from others their own children should they witness her in all of her despair.
Radcliffe’s Kipps finally susses this out (especially after a too-helpful Medium basically explains it all to him), and he finds the body of the young boy in the marsh, and properly buries his body with that of his long-dead and haunting mother.  Just in time, too, as his own son is finally joining him in this journey, and he doesn’t want any harm to come to him.
But come it does, as The Woman is seen at the train station where he picks up his young son.  Entranced by her, the son walks in front of an oncoming train.  Kipps notices this too late and risks his own life to get him out of the way.  He fails. They are both killed, and this slowly dawns on Kipps when he looks up to see his long-dead wife there, offering her hand up out off of the tracks, and down the sidewalk to eternity.
Cut to a seemingly CGI Woman In Black looking on with a stoic face and stern look for the rest of us.  END.
So; if she didn’t really want to be reunited with her son, then what the heck did she want? Is she just a ghostly jerk?  If Kipps did give her what she wanted, why still go after his son?  Is she just a creature of habit?  Or is this just a big hole in the plot; bad writing?
I think she actually was thanking Kipps by giving him what he secretly wanted; to be reunited with his wife again.  For years he can’t forget her, even with the demands of his job and a child to distract him.  So she helped him the only way she knew how; they all can be a family together, forever, in the afterlife. Like she be now, with her son, thanks to Kipp.
But even with that soft spin on a ghost story, the payoff seemed vague and weak in comparison to the horror The Woman caused for much of the movie.
Still; I give it props for its deliberate pacing, effective use of classic chills, and a resolution that is different from the horror standard.

Overall Score for “The Woman In Black” from Rich Bonaduce: B-

“The Woman In Black” is rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images.
95 Minutes
Directed by: James Watkins
Written by: Susan Hill (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)

3 out of 5

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