The Woman in Black [Blu-ray] James Watkins

The Woman in Black [Blu-ray] James Watkins
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Having been adapted as a TV movie in the late '80s and performed on stage and on the radio in its native England, Susan Hill's novel, The Woman in Black, has a firm standing within the modern lexicon, giving this modified and updated cinematic adaptation the haunting of expectation beyond the ghostly story itself of an enraged, grieving ghost. As director James Watkins discusses on the feature length commentary track and the brief "Making of" included with the Blu-ray, he's attempted to modernize the story, dropping forced accents and period piece machinations, ensuring the film, aside from its costumes and set design, is a work focused on tone and theme. Very little dialogue occurs once the young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), travels to a remote village to settle up some vague legalities surrounding a dilapidated island mansion, seemingly haunted by the titular woman in black. He meets some wary locals, as well as a medium (Janet McTeer) whose possessed, incoherent rants and inexplicable carvings allude to a local curse involving dead kids, which is expanded on once the tots start drinking lye and setting themselves on fire. But aside from these occasional diversions, intended solely to give some context—and exposition—to explain the oft-inconsistent plot, Watkins' ghost story about the power of grief and mystery of death follows Arthur around the mansion with little sound beyond the creaking of floorboards and natural environment. It creates a consistent sense of tension, which does work in the favour of tonality, ensuring that a sense of dread remains consistent throughout, but it often devolves into cheap jump scare territory with unexpected animals popping up and creepy wind-up toys starting up inexplicably. There's also little explanation as to why the woman in black, whose rage stemming from the death of her child, is so unfocused. Rather than killing the local kids, which seems to be her main goal, she spends a lot of time fucking with the young lawyer. Similarly, his call to action comes at an unlikely moment when his own son is threatened, which makes sense on a thematic level—seeing as his inertia following the death of his wife is motivated by paternal protection—but ultimately contradicts itself when his motivations don't make sense from the sheer perspective of survival and self-preservation. Ultimately, this aesthetically impressive low-key nostalgic horror film focuses more on feeling than logic, which is unfortunate when the sensation aspect implodes on itself with the aforementioned crass cheap jump scares that denigrate the intense and mature tone of the overall piece. (Alliance)