The Woman in Black is a haunting period piece set in Edwardian England and based on a book by Susan Hill. The set up has Arthur Kipps, a near suicidal lawyer played by Daniel Radcliffe, going to a remote village to try and settle the affairs of a deceased woman who left behind a massive mansion on a marsh but no heir. When Kipps arrives he finds little welcome and everyone imploring him to leave the village to his great confusion. Undaunted he presses on as he tries to take care of each and every bit of paperwork that must be settled so the firm he works for can take over the house and sell it; and so he can keep his job.
Once at the village he begins to see things. The title character appears to him which starts a series of tragic occurrences that happen to the people of the village who partially blame Kipps for aggravating matters. As he learns more and more of the mansion’s history he sets about with his newly acquired local friend, Sam Bentley, to try and set things right.
From the get-go the film is dark, brooding and wastes no time in getting you into the plot. Radcliffe does a wonderful job of selling the mindset of his character without having to say much. While dire happenings may start from the beginning, the actual scares start about twenty minutes in and then don’t stop. The director did a wonderful job in making sure you never forget that there is something horrible going on and uses every chance he can to set you on edge before finally scaring you. The fright doesn’t end until the credits are finally rolling, and even those are creepy.
The music is delightfully moody and sets the tone throughout the film. The costuming is wonderful, and for any Steampunk will serve as drool worthy. The settings are lovely though constantly cast in smoke, fog and darkness. The cast also stepped up their game to sell the horrible situation they all find themselves in. This all combines to establish the feel of a good ghost story.
Some of the scares are cheap surprises that cause you to jump, but those are in the minority as the film relies on truly creepy and goose-bump inducing moments to startle the audience; and quite effectively I might add. At an hour and a half long, the pace never slows, never drags and takes you from terrifying scene to terrifying scene with ease.
The best praise I can find for Woman in Black is that my friend I saw it with, who is a scary movie aficionado, called it as good as the Japanese version of The Ring. As someone who doesn’t like to be scared at the theater I can say I still enjoyed it quite a bit, especially because the ending left me guessing and didn’t finish how I thought.
If you like scary movies, or you are fond of period pieces you’ll enjoy this movie. Just be prepared to walk away looking out the corner of your eye for the Woman in Black.