My New Year resolution this year was to review every new movie I watched in 2012. Believe it or not, this wasn’t out of laziness it was because I find most movies don’t require an actual review.
It’s easy to review movies that I hate or love. I find it difficult to review the movies that fall somewhere in between, the ones that neither please nor offend me.
I have chosen to brand these as “movies I nothing”. “The Woman in Black” is one such movie.
“The Woman in Black” tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a single father ever since his wife died giving birth to their young son Joseph (Misha Handley). Arthur is a lawyer who is tasked with settling the estate of Alice Darblow, owner of Eel Marsh where she lived with her husband, son, and sister.
Kipps’s boss at the firm tells him in no uncertain terms that settling the estate is his last chance or he will no longer be employed.
Kipp finds himself unwelcome at the nearby village and when he gets to work at Eel Marsh he finds various supernatural forces working against him.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
This is a story we’ve all seen before in some form or another. The Comparisons to “Dracula” are particularly difficult to overlook, be it the locals who refuse him lodging to encourage him to let sleeping dogs lie, or the carriage driver refusing to take him to a residence that local legend says is haunted.
Although these comparisons are fun considering “Dracula” is a tale that has been told by Hammer Studios before. Hammer Studios was resurrected in 2007 by Dutch consortium Cyrte Investments, and this is the fifth movie produced by the resurrected studio.
One thing that stands out in this story is the character of Arthur Kipps. Played by Harry Potter alumni Daniel Radcliffe, much of this story rests on scenes of Radcliffe reacting to various horror story beats.
He’s neither bad nor good. I do commend Radcliffe on effective portrayal of the internal sadness of his character. There are no scenes of him breaking down crying at photos of his wife. Instead we rely on seeing his sadness in his face and actions.
His son is his reason for doing everything, and had his son died in childbirth, I doubt Arthur would have found any reason to continue living.
“The Woman in Black” was directed by James Watkins, whose only other directorial effort is 2008’s”Eden Lake.” He shows expertise in the making of “The Woman in Black..”
While the sets and scenery look very convincing, the only part of his direction I take issue with is how he sets up the shock beats.
In any horror film, there are parts that are meant to scare the viewer! In “The Woman in Black,” I found these moments telegraphed.
You could see them coming a mile away and as soon as I figured out his style, Iwas pointing out what was going to happen before it did.
I will admit that if you don’t over-analyze the film, you might find yourself jumping more than once.
Then there is the ending …
Without getting into specifics, I do not know what to make of the ending.
Is it supposed to be happy or sad? Is it supposed to be bittersweet or the start of a new chapter?
I’m all for not being spoon-fed in a movie and coming to my own conclusions, but this movie isn’t cohesive enough to justify taking a stand.
There isn’t enough of a connection to any of the characters for this to feel necessary — the protagonist doesn’t seem to care about anything but his son, so there is little to connect with him as a character. You see so little of his son that you don’t feel any connection to his well-being.
With the antagonist, her story isn’t fleshed out enough to understand her. Is she justified? Or was she a bad person in life as well as in death?
Ultimately, there’s no emotional connection to make you care, so the matter is irrelevant.
Those that know me will back me in my saying that I am a 6th degree, black belt Hammer Horror fan. If they put it out, I’ve seen it and I’ve damn well got an opinion of it.
To me there are few film team ups as great as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I think that this has, and will continue to harm me in this, and all future Hammer Studios productions.
It has some of the tropes the classic Hammer films, such as the village pub being the Victorian equivalent of an internet chat room. It’s where they go for all of their information, and instead of help, they find a venomous elitist group who don’t take kindly to an outsider coming in and asking questions.
One thing that I’ve come to expect from hammer studios productions is the movie ending on an unfocused still shot of the vanquished baddie (usually Christopher Lee). Don’t take this to mean I’m looking for a happy ending all of the time. Instead I just suggest this thought, instead of the ending we were given in this film, how much would have changed had the movie ended as soon as we see the final shovel full of dirt fall on the coffin?
I’ve come to realize that little would change.
This ending wouldn’t suggest that the original ending couldn’t have happened. It leaves it up to the viewer to supply the ending to the film based off of what they’ve taken out of it.
In this case, an ending like that would have really helped this movie because what we were left with left much to be desired.
All this being said I still don’t know what to take out of this movie. It’ isn’t particularly good or bad. I’ve seen this type of story before, but there are things that help this one stand out above the others.
Ultimately only you can decide if you want to see a movie and I cannot help you make that decision. If you want to see it then do so, just don’t expect a classic Hammer studios production from it.