Thursday 23 February 2012
I settled in with my hot pretzel and prepared to be scared and creeped out. I was not disappointed. We open with three innocent little girls having a tea party, smiling and laughing. All of a sudden they stop, their faces go blank, as they stare at someone or something that has come into their room. Then they get to their feet in a synchronous movement, walk to the large three-paned windows and jump to their deaths.
Enter Arthur Kipps, a grieving young solicitor, struggling to hold onto his career and his sanity. He has visions of his dead wife beckoning him. Daniel Radcliffe has definitely shed Harry Potter. He broke my heart with those lost, shattered eyes. Poor Arthur is hanging on by a thread, his son.
After a final warning about his job, Arthur sets off to the village of Crythin Gifford to see to the estate of Alice Drablow. Once he arrives, he finds the villagers strangely rude and eager to see him turn around and hightail it back to London. The innkeepers refuse him a room, until the wife feels guilty enough because of the downpour to rent him the attic room. The same room from where the little girls committed suicide.
The following day, Arthur tries to talk with the local solicitor, Mr. Jerome. Jerome brushes him off, hands him a packet of Alice's papers, then hustles Arthur out. He even has a carriage waiting to take the young widower to the train. Miffed, Arthur pays the carriage driver, who looks like he could be Dracula's Renfield, to take him to Drablow's Eel Marsh House. This mausoleum of a place sits on an island in the marshes and becomes cut off during high tide. The joint is creepy as hell. We're talking the type of house that requires its own list of horror film survival rules. In other words, do not enter unless you've got Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne as your back up.
Dracula's driver dumps Arthur at the gate and gets out of there so fast his wagon wheels squeeled. Our intrepid hero enters the house and sets about doing his job. All sorts of noises and mysterious footsteps lead him to explore upstairs. Second rule of haunted house survival: Do Not Go Upstairs. I mean the First is obviously Do Not Enter, but if you're gonna go anyway... I digress.
He goes and of course he sees the woman. Just before he freaks, though, Renfield returns and takes him back to the village. He reports the sighting of the woman to the local constable. While there, two young boys appear with their sickly sister. She has inexplicably taken a few gulps of lye and dies in Arthur's arms. Now the villagers are up in arms. They know when the Woman is sighted, the children will start to die.
Arthur is rattled by this point, but he knows that he has to finish the job or he'll never be able to take care of his son. Instead of leaving, like any sensible person, he takes refuge with his new friend from the train ride up, Sam Daily, played by the incomparable Ciaran Hinds. Sam knows the villagers are a superstitious lot and though he tries not to buy into their panic, it's difficult. Turns out Sam and his wife lost their son when the Woman made an appearance. Here's where they reveal that they are just as weird as the villagers because Mrs. Daily claims to communicate with her dead son through possessive trances. Just the happy couple I want to spend the night with.
Arthur figures out what needs to be done to make the Woman stop her murderous rampage, and enlists the aid of Sam, who himself, is tired of all the death. Battling the elements and the vengeful ghost, Arthur and Sam make their stand. I was white-knuckling my seat at this point, ready to cry for Mommy. I haven't jumped and yelped like a little girl in a horror film in years. James Watkins was just that good. He relied on tension, shadow and a few good scares to amp up the terror.
Special mention must be made of the creeptastically freaky little toys. Good Golly Miss Molly, these are Satan's playthings, I swear. I can feel the hair on my neck standing on end just thinking about them. I never ever want to look at a toy monkey, clown or doll again. The shudders are wracking my body as I write this.
Woman In Black is a hugely entertaining, good old-fashioned gothic haunted house tale that will keep you up. The story is sinister and disturbing, playing on the ingrained fears of the audience and our imagination to provide the chills. And boy did it work.