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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 320: The Woman In Black

The Woman In Black
Back in black

It's rare that I watch a movie having absolutely zero knowledge of what is going to happen. Contrary to the belief that someone who has watched one horror movie a day for over three hundred days, I don't sit online watching trailers and researching everything horror. I like the genre, but I just don't hang out on horror forums and websites. Still, I usually have a general knowledge of what movie I am about to watch. I was almost completely in the dark for today's movie. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing doesn't matter, but it put me in an interesting spot as I had no idea what to expect.Today's review is a request by Rob. If you'd like to request a movie for me to review, send me an email at

The Woman In Black is a 1989 British television horror movie based on the novel of the same name by Susan Hill. The movie stars Adrian Rawlins (multiple Harry Potter films) as Arthur Kidd. Arthur is a solicitor in London who is sent to the small coastal town on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of a widower named Alice Drablow. On the train to the town, Arthur meets Sam Toovey, a wealthy landowner who appears to be unsettled at the news of Arthur dealing with Mrs. Drablow's belongings. Arthur attends the funeral with a local solicitor when he notices a lone woman in black at the back of the church. After the ceremony, Arthur once again sees the mysterious woman among the gravestones. He travels to Mrs. Drablow's isolated home, Eel Marsh House, near the coast. As he walks around the home's graveyard, he sees the woman in black. She begins to walk toward him and Arthur flees to the house in terror. He inspects the house, coming across the death certificates of two people and pictures of a woman who looks suspiciously like the woman in black. He also listens to disturbing wax cylinders recorded by the late Mrs. Drablow. While walking on the path outside the home, Arthur hears the horrendous screams and crashing sounds, but cannot find any accident. After visiting Mr. Toovey in town, Arthur returns to the home with Mr. Toovey's dog, Spider. The strange occurrences continue, including strange sounds from upstairs in a room with a locked door. Arthur gets an ax to break it down, but discovers that the door is now open. The room was an old nursery and Arthur begins to hear the voice of a child. After doing some research, Arthur learns that Mrs. Drablow had a sister named Jennet who had a child. The boy was adopted by Mrs. Drablow and her husband, but Jennet took her son and both were killed in an accident on the trail outside the house. Is Jennet the woman in black and what does she want with Arthur?

Stop! She can't see you if you stand perfectly still.

As I said before, I had no idea what to expect from The Woman In Black. The story itself plays out like a mixture of Poe and Lovecraft's non-science fiction work. It's a slow-boil ghost story that trickles out clues throughout the entire film. The big factor that separates this movie from others is that it was created for British television and not for a wider audience. Being on television obviously cut down on the potential for violence and truly horrific scares, but the movie does have a few good jolts. They are old-school horror scares with strange sounds and phenomena. The woman in black is supremely unsettling to look at as she stands very still in the background, watching and waiting. The disembodied screams are also unpleasant, especially considering how loud they are. Be careful watching this at home because a neighbor may call the police on you.

As a boorish Yankee watching this, I did find it occasionally difficult to understand some of the regional words and phrases being used. A lot of the characters had the “stiff upper lip” attitude, which wore on me after a while. Again, boorish Yankee here. The movie is a tad long, especially considering the movie's slow pace and minimal action. The acting is very good as Adrian Rawlins manages to convey a true sense of terror even when he is alone in a scene. The end of the film may be controversial for some. I am still on the fence about it. On the one hand, it was a genuine surprise, but on the other it was too definite in it's scope. I think a little bit of ambiguity could have been scarier.

The forehead in pale

Sometimes it's good not knowing what to expect from a movie. I had no preconceived notions and allowed the movie to progress naturally. The Woman In Black has a good, traditional horror story that many literary fans will enjoy. If you're looking for lots of action and blood, this isn't for you. The movie does have a few genuine scares and plenty of unsettling moments. It's a little long and dry at certain points which slows down the overall horror. The acting is good and the atmosphere is appropriate. The movie is handicapped a bit by being made-for-television, but not to the point where the quality is cut off. While not a perfect horror story, The Woman In Black is still enjoyable.


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