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Woman in Black, The (2012)

This is an unusual film for the Classic Horror Campaign to be reviewing since we tend to only review older movies from the pre-1980′s but there are a number of reasons why this is an important film for classic horror fans. Not only does it not rely on sex, blood and gore for its chills and spills thus harkening back to a bygone era of horror film making, this is also the big return of Britain’s iconic Hammer film studios. Yes, Hammer have already released a few brand new horror thrillers over the last couple of years, but The Woman In Black is the first one to really make its mark on the public and at box-offices around the world.

Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name, Hammer Films’ version of The Woman in Black tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer sent to an isolated village to sort out the estate of the late Alice Drabow. When he arrives he is shunned by the villagers and soon finds himself trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the unexplained deaths of the village children.

The Woman in Black has already been adapted twice before, once as a long-running West End play and once as a highly rated ITV movie first screened on Christmas Eve in 1989. Each version of the story has brought something new to the mix and Hammers version is no exception but whilst the TV movie was a slow burner with one major scare (known to fans of the film as “That Scene”) Hammer has tried to ramp up the shocks and jumps with varying success. Of course, trying to sell a moody, atmospheric period ghost story to a cynical young multiplex audience was never going to be easy and compromises had to be made. On the whole, the roller coaster approach works well, with each “fright moment” topping the last but there’s still nothing that quite matches “that scene” in the 80′s tv version. The last third of the movie is also too overwrought and seems to have been “Hollywood-ized” just a tad too much, with a climax involving the young widower racing against time to save his young son from the evil ghost and a cop-out ending somewhat reminiscent of the embarrassingly lame finale of Poltergeist II.

On reflection, The Woman in Black succeeds due to a nice atmosphere, some beautiful cinematography, lovely (if over-the-top) set design and a good performance from Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps. Indeed, Radcliffe managed to successfully put the ghost of Harry Potter to rest and has made the transition to adult leading man with ease. One thing which struck me upon viewing this film in a packed multiplex filled with a pretty young crowd was the way this essentially grown-up ghost story was able to hold the entire audience enthralled for the full length of its 95 minutes. There was no chatting or texting on mobile phones, inappropriate laughter or any of the other usual distractions to be found when trying to watch a film in a cinema these days, just a full house of terrified teenagers thoroughly enjoying being scared out of their wits! So full marks to Hammer Films and let this just be the beginning of another successful era of Hammer Horror.


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