Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Woman in Black [2012]

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Woman in Black (directed by James Watkins, screenplay by Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill) is an excellent horror movie set in England during the early part of the 20th century.  Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame) is a young widowed lawyer from "living in the city," with a four year old son.  His wife had died in childbirth.  Such loss would certainly have been difficult and it becomes clear Kipps has had a rough time of it.  Indeed the movie begins with Kipps arriving at work one rainy Tuesday morning where he is treated to a "lecture from Hell" by his boss:  "Kipps, as one hopes you have learned by now, our firm does not 'take passengers.'  Each of our lawyers is expected to pull his own weight."  Kipps is then given the task of "settling the estate" of a client who had lived somewhere in the country.  Kipps' boss makes it clear that if Kipps doesn't make good, make this case a profitable job for the firm that he's to expect to be sacked.  He's told that this is his last chance... Wonderful, no pressure, huh ...

So Kipps boards a train for the country.  Arriving late in the evening, he's given a ride into town by a fellow passenger who tells Kipps that he has the first and only car in the whole county.  So Kipps is certainly not "in the city" anymore ...

When he's dropped off at the inn in the center of town, Kipps is very curtly told by the inn-keeper that the place is booked solid and that there's simply no room for him there (or really anywhere in town).  Kipps responds that this is strange because he was under the impression that his firm had called up from the city to make the arrangements.  The inn-keeper plays dumb, but his wife finally allows Kipps to sleep in a room they have in the attic.  That room turns out to be the room from which their daughter and two other girls had mysteriously lept out of the window from some time previous and had not been used since (the girls' toys are still shown lying about).

In the morning, when Kipps asks for a ride to the Estate that he is to settle accounts for, NO ONE wants to give him a lift.  Indeed, the inn-keeper had hired a carriage for him, but for the sole purpose of taking him back to the train station and presumably back home.  When Kipps asks the carriage driver to take him to the estate instead, the carriage driver initially refuses and only agrees to do so after Kipps promises to pay him a fare many times the usual.

As they approach the estate, located by the sea, it becomes quickly clear that it had not been inhabited for a very long time.  Further, the only access to the estate is a very thin winding causeway following the ridge of a sandbar across a salt marsh that gets covered twice a day with the tide.  So arrival to and departure from the estate has to be timed according to the tides.  Perhaps in centuries past, this would have kept "raiders at bay," but by this time, and even to the somewhat "behind the times" villagers, it could have only added to the creepiness of the place. ;-)

After Kipps arrives and starts rummaging through the papers at the estate, he becomes aware that the last resident of the estate had been a tormented, half-crazed woman whose sister had finally asked the town's authorities to take away her son from her.  The little boy then drowned some time later _on that precarious causeway_ when the sister and her husband were in the process to taking him to visit her at the estate.  The death of her son had apparently driven the half-crazed resident of the estate completely insane and she hanged herself shortly afterwards.  However the town, which the tormented woman had blamed for aiding and abetting her sister in taking away her son from her, had not been the same since.

And this had all been going on for a very long time.  The tormented woman and her son had died decades previous.  Ever since then, the town had been tormented as well.  Finally, presumably with the death of the sister, the long forsaken estate was presumably going to be liquidated, and yes, the villagers were all very, very nervous.  What was going to happen now?

So this then is the horrific mess that Kipps finds him stepping into, a mess that he's being asked by his firm to "settle" ("clean up") or else be fired.  And you may have thought that you had a tough time of it at work ... look at poor Kipps! ;-)

Much ensues ...

Now the CNS/USCCB rates the film an "L" meaning that it feels that even many adults would find the film troubling presumably because of the themes of suicide (and even child-suicide since apparently the children of the town were being led to their deaths by a ghost of a woman described by the title "The Woman in Black").  I do believe it to be a fair warning and so parents be advised.

All in all though, I found the film to be one very well told ghost/horror story, that though perhaps not for the smallest of kids, ought to do a good job in scaring the teens and adults.  So if you like these kind of films, leave the little kids at home (or put them to bed) and prepare to be presented with a very well-crafted and ghostly tale.  Indeed, I do believe that the former "Harry Potter" chose this story very, very well ... ;-)

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1 comment:

  1. Not especially original and not tremendously scary, but there are a few pleasurable jolts of fear, some shiver-down-your-spine moodiness and it doesn’t overstay its welcome for too long. Nice write-up Dennis. Check out my review when you get the chance.