Review: The Woman In Black

Last weekend, my brothers and I watched The Woman in Black together. We’d been discussing this:

 …because wow.

And that’s how we started talking about watching the HP actors in different movies, and I remembered I had wanted to watch The Woman in Black since I saw Daniel Radcliffe’s interview with GMA back in…January, February? though I couldn’t remember why. As for me, it wasn’t on Netflix, which I have, but it was for rent on Vudu, which my brother does have. (The TV has an app for that.)

For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. In fact, it might have gotten four stars from me (out of five, even if that’s not how you’re supposed to star movies) if it hadn’t been for the awful ending that made me question everything from the beginning all over again.

Which, yeah, it had a rather absurd beginning. Radcliffe, who is Mr. Kipps (although I kept thinking they were saying Mr. Gibbs and wanted an NCIS crossover) is a lawyer sent off to review the papers of a creepy, rich old lady who lives in the middle of nowhere. Yes, you’ve seen it before. Then you learn he’s ambiguously a father.

Really, movie, really?

Yeah, Radcliffe is just too baby-faced to be a convincing father; we wondered if he might just be an older brother.

The movie is overblown melodrama from the start. Every line is deep, every room is dark—every moment portentous. And every character that walks on screen is so dramatic it’s distracting…by the time relevant characters started showing up, I couldn’t tell, because they got the same amount of screen time and as little actual explanation as everything else had been.

Oddly, my favorite part of the movie, for the creep factor, was Kibbs exploring the haunted house. Aside from the fact that he kept hearing creepy things that are demonstrably haunting and then keeps opening the door anyway, I’d been genuinely startled several times. The sets are gorgeous. Every period detail is perfect. And the special effects fit right in without drawing attention to themselves.

Everything was aimed for the atmosphere of creepy. Not gore, not thrills, but the tension. That works for me, and I enjoyed it, even if it implies Kipps is a man of a tiny imagination.

“Maybe next time I open the door, it really won’t be a ghost!”

Then he fairly abruptly changes his mind, and convinces this rich not-neighbor, who gets a strangely intense narrative focus, to help him restore the peace.

Now, though you know I hate the ending, there were still questions that had already come up. When Kipps arrives in the required creepy hamlet, all the villagers fear him and try to run him out of town as quickly as possible. That’s also standard for this premise, but as I’ve said, everything in this movie gets the same amount of foreshadowing so I couldn’t tell if this was relevant or if every character in the movie was just nuts. And we never learn why the arrival of a stranger made the difference, and if it was just anyone who saw the woman in black:

Why didn’t they burn down the house?

Okay, so kids are dying. How is this at all Radcliff’s fault? They’ve apparently been dying for years. How did they not decide to just torch the place? Gaston got his village to march miles to burn down Beast’s castle strictly through rhetoric: “save your children and your wives!” Not even one dead kid. But in this village, no one apparently even chooses to move, though they apparently already know all the rules of the haunting.

It might have helped if clearer reason for villagers to blame him.

Now this mid-movie other male lead (Mr. Daley?) gained an awful lot of unexplained prominence near the end that didn’t make much sense. Well, okay, it made a plot point, but it was the plot point I hated. Why was he there, and why was his kid targeted? We never learned who saw what that set it off. I rather liked the wife, at least.

As for the Woman: what happened to her sister and husband? If they declared her insane and were imprisoning her, how did she get the house?

Like I said, the suspense of the middle of the movie held my interest enough to forgive the early schmaltz and the plot device Kipps-as-door-opener, and then, and then…

So Kipps has the idea to reunite mother and son, even retrieving the boy’s body (see? plot device). There’s some final ghost action, including dramatic sightings of the dead village kids, and all goes quiet. Kipps plans to leave right away, taking his son with him. Unfortunately, the Woman in Black will never forgive and pulls his son away onto the railroad tracks. Kipps reacts only at the last second and he and the boy are apparently run over while Mr. Daley or whoever he is watches in horror (I don’t know if the nanny noticed)—witnessing the crowd of dead kids again behind the train as it passes. Then we see Kipps and son meeting up with ghostly Mrs. Kipps and they all walk into the afterlife together while TWiB watches in anger.

And I say…

What did I just watch?

That ending just invalidated the entire movie. Not the death of Kipps, which could have been very effective, even including the son (for any other reason than pathos) if we didn’t get the stupid reunion. It’s just so trite and goofy. And apparently too similar to the final Harry Potter, which while I know quite a bit about, never saw: my youngest brother called it as soon as the train went by and then I went online and saw it everywhere else.

The movie has significant differences from the novel it’s based on, but they should have tried a little harder to connect the endings. Difficult, as in the book Kipps didn’t have a child until well after the main plot, but it’s only then TWiB gets her revenge. Much creepier for her to come back when Kipps thought he was safe. Sure, they thought they’d cleared the ghost, but it’s only been a matter of hours at most, Kipps should have been far more paranoid.

But what can I expect? I read the premise for the sequel, and next she’s going after WWII soldiers.

Wha—

That upends the entire premise of this movie, in that she is going after the children. That was kinda important to her character. My fault for expecting dedicated storytelling from Hollywood, I suppose. God forbid I actually try to think.

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Woman In Black

  1. Thanks for reviewing The Woman in Black. Just before leaving my office at DISH on Friday, I went online and rented The Woman in Black. It downloaded to my Hopper and was ready to watch before I got home. I was never a Potter fan, so Radcliffe really wasn’t the draw here. I like a good supernatural thriller so I gave it a shot. Sadly, this movie was every bit as mellow dramatic and pretentious as you said it was. There were some good, creepy moments, but beyond that The Woman in Black was kind of boring.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      It’s like the movie-makers decided the creepy couldn’t be unexplained and tried to fix it, which rather misses the point.

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