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Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Woman in Black (2012)

Growing up, I was a fan of the classic "Hammer Horror" films like Christopher Lee's Dracula.  So, when I heard that Hammer was back in business a few years ago, I was excited and eager to see what they had to offer modern horror fans.  I am also a huge fan of the 1988 BBC release of "The Woman in Black".  When I heard that their first submission to the world's scrutiny was to be "The Woman in Black", I was even more excited to see what they would do...

Solicitor Arthur Kipps has been assigned the task of preparing Eel Marsh House for sale, and getting the recently deceased owner's papers organized and settled.  Upon arrival, however, Kipps soon realizes that something is wrong with the town and the isolated manor.  Digging deeper reveals a tragedy that still lingers and brings grief to those that stay there...

Right off the bat, I have to say that I was impressed.  The story is different enough from the 1988 version that it's fresh, interesting, and draws you in.  The writers explore different aspects of the original 1983 novel, while maintaining a nice, tightly crafted plot.  My only real issue was with the ending- it was a little more... "positive" than I would've liked.  Other than that one little quibble, the story telling was really quite good.

The characters are also really well done as well.  They all have a lot of depth and facets to them- even more so than the 1988 version.  This is certainly helped by the slightly more in depth examination of the characters done by the script.  None of the supporting characters are trivial.  They are all woven together to create a believable atmosphere of sorrow and fear that pulls you in, and makes you want to know more about what's happened to the town.

These characters wouldn't have been as believable if it weren't for the performers.  I know quite a few people were surprised and even incredulous when it was announced that Daniel Radcliffe was to be in it.  Personally, I was intrigued by the choice, and was interested in seeing what Radcliffe would bring to the character and the genre.  I wasn't disappointed.  He has such expressive eyes, and used them to great effect in this movie to show the depth of grief Kipps feels at the loss of his wife, and the wariness he feels at some of the strange things happening at Eel Marsh House.  He did a great job in this film.  Ciaran Hinds as Sam Daily (a local landowner that befriends Kipps), was great.  He brought an understated performance to the role that helped add to the mood and overall feel of the town's tragic history.  Just wonderful.  I also thought that Janet McTeer did an outstanding job in the role of Elizabeth- Sam's wife.  The scenes where she goes into a psychic trance are especially interesting and well done.  She brought both energy and sadness to her character in a wonderful mix.

"The Woman in Black" is a visually beautiful film as well.  The heavy use of greys and earth tones, the overcast lighting, the large imposing Eel House Manor, and the thick, encroaching wall of gnarled trees and grass surrounding it, really helped to bring weight and a feeling of gloom to the movie.  The camera work is a great blend of close ups, large scenic shots, and movement.  In a world of gratuitous CG elements in movies, I was impressed with how subtle, and little there were.  What CG was used was there to enhance the scene, rather than distract from it.  The movie let the characters, story, and action pull you in- which it did a great job of doing.

I have to say that "The Woman in Black" was a great return to the movies for Hammer, and a great non-Harry Potter vehicle for Daniel Radcliffe.  I was both pleased, and impressed by it.  It's a movie I would not only recommend, but one I've bought for my collection, and would have very little problem re-watching.  It's going into The Good!

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