I'd been wanting to check this film out for a while and I noticed I could rent it on Amazon instant video, so last night I settled down to see what the folks at Hammer Films could do with a Gothic ghost story.
The Woman in Black deals with a young solicitor named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role) whose wife died in childbirth four years prior to the start of this story. Kipps has never quite recovered and when we meet him he's on the verge of losing his job and perhaps his sanity. His boss gives him one last chance. See to the settling of the estate of a woman named Alice Disbrow who owned an old manor called Eel Marsh House.
Arriving in the rural village where the house is located, Kipps soon finds that the villagers don't want him around, and in fact try everything they can to get him back on the return train to London. Kipps perseveres and gets a local coachman to take him out to the house, which is located on a bit of land out in the marshes and only accessible at low tide.
The serious creepiness begins once Kipps reaches Eel Marsh House. He's supposed to be going through all the documents in the house but he keeps hearing noises from upstairs. Investigating, he at first finds a crow that has flown down the chimney, but then, when he looks out one of the upstairs windows he sees a woman in a black cloak and veil standing near the house's small graveyard. He looks away for a moment, but when he looks back she's gone.
Back in town, Kipps makes a horrible discovery. The townsfolk are well acquainted with the woman in black and they believe that if anyone sees her, a child will die. A child does perish, and of course the villagers blame Kipps. But Kipps thinks it's just superstition, and returns to the house where the ghostly goings on begin to escalate. Slowly, the identity of the veiled woman and the reason for the deaths of the children are revealed and things get really scary.
All and all I was very impressed with the film. It has a nice slow build-up of suspense and terror. Radcliffe does well as the shattered young father. He's the emotional center of the film, and he carries it off well. Eel Marsh House is suitably scary and the directing and camera work bring a real sense of dread to the movie. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but that's all I'll say about that. As I said, for the most part I liked the movie a lot.
A word of warning. There are a lot of scenes of dead children in The Woman in Black, so this definitely isn't a film for younger viewers. It got a PG rating, and there's virtually no blood or gore, but I could see where some scenes might prove very disturbing to children under twelve.
I'd like to give a special thanks to my cats Bruce and Amelia for heightening my horror experience by leaping onto the back of my chair at just the wrong moment. Thanks guys....