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[personal profile] alchemine
I did end up going to see The Woman in Black this afternoon. I lobbied hard for TC to come with me (even offered to see something else just so we could have a nice time together) but she was all "ugh, don't wanna." So I said "fine, be a poop and stay home then" and went by myself.

This was definitely an old-school Gothic ghost/haunted house story, heavy on the atmosphere and almost completely gore-free. The basic story: Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer whose equally young wife died giving birth to their son four years ago; he's not been doing well at work lately, so the firm has decided to give him a chance to redeem himself by going to a remote country village to wrap up the affairs of a client who died the previous year. When he arrives, the villagers are hostile, suspicious, and pretty much want to pack him right onto the next train back to London, but he perseveres and goes on out to the dead client's house, which is a massive dilapidated mansion on an island in the marshland, connected to civilization only by a causeway that disappears whenever the tide rises. (The scenes of him traveling back and forth across the causeway were some of my favorites in terms of sheer cinematography.)

Soon enough, Arthur finds out that the house, and indeed the village, are haunted by a vengeful ghost that when disturbed, forces the local children to kill themselves in various awful ways: jumping from windows, drinking lye, self-immolation. This is a problem not only for the obvious reasons, but also because Arthur's own little boy is scheduled to arrive in four days to spend a weekend in the country with his father. Now, Arthur not only needs to brave the creepy house so he can get his work done and save his job, but also figure out how to appease the ghost to protect his son.


- Daniel Radcliffe did a very good job and I found him quite believable as Arthur. Some of the reviewers seemed surprised that he made a convincing adult, but he is an adult - he'll be 23 this year and is certainly old enough to have a real job and even a family.

- I do kind of question whether him being a widower with a four-year-old son was appropriate for the period: as far as I know, it was common for Victorian girls to get married at 18, but most of them married men who were older and more established, not fellow teenagers. But, I suppose for the story you could assume that his character is a few years older than he is in real life.

- The atmosphere was fantastic, from the misty muddy marsh to the fog-bound graveyard (complete with weeping angels) to the dusty wreck of the house itself. The set dressers must have had a field day with that one.

- On the other hand, the plot was pretty predictable if you've ever read even one ghost story. Even the twist at the end was visible a mile away. The middle third also drags quite a lot because there's no dialogue and all you see is Arthur, poking around the scary house and getting spooked repeatedly. Although I will say that he must have cast-iron balls to investigate some of those strange noises upstairs--I'd probably have tried to swim across the flooded isthmus to get away after the first thud.

- There were some genuinely scary/startling moments, nearly all achieved through classic tactics like rattling doorknobs, creaking footsteps, gauzy shapes flitting just out of view, and so forth. Again, if you're familiar with ghost stories you'll also be familiar with these (and if you're used to modern horror movies, you probably won't find them frightening enough), but they worked for me.

- For the first half, I kept getting Mr Bentley, the man who meets Arthur by chance on the train and ends up helping him, mixed up with Mr Jerome, the village lawyer who's supposed to help him and doesn't at all. Maybe Roger Allam (Mr Bentley) just looks too much like the guy who plays Mr Jerome? I don't know.

- I still can't pinpoint exactly when the story was supposed to be set. The clothes and hairstyles look late Victorian, but dates in the 1870s and 1880s are referenced as being "a long time ago," and Mr Bentley has a car (though he does say it's the first one in the village and people are scared of it). Maybe the very late 1890s?

So, overall, a solid ghost story, not without its flaws, but 90 minutes worth of good, spooky entertainment, and a respectable first-post-HP outing for Daniel.
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February 2013

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