“She makes us, she makes us do it. She makes us! They took her boy away so now she takes us.”
In an Edwardian era English village, Colchester, three little girls are having a tea party with their dolls in an attic. They are smiling and having fun when they suddenly look at something in the corner. Then they stand up and walk trance-like to a window and jump to their deaths with blank faces.
Some years later, in London, widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), must arrange the sale of Eel Marsh House and visit to examine the papers left by deceased owner Alice Drablow. His legal contact Mr. Jerome sends him away, but Samuel Daily (Ciarán Hinds) and his wife Elizabeth (Janet McTeer) allow him stay at their home. Though most of the townsfolk treat him coldly, he finds companionship in the local tavern hand, Mrs. Fisher, who still grieves the loss of her three daughters, the girls from the opening scene.
During his initial visit to Eel Marsh House, Arthur is distracted by odd noises, and subsequently, the appearance of a spectral entity in funerary garb. He hears sounds on the marshes of a carriage in distress and a screaming child, but sees nobody on the causeway. Upon his return to the village, Arthur attempts to alert the village constable. Though he remains adamant about what he saw, the constable assures him that no one has used the causeway in years before retreating to his study. Before he can react further, two children enter the station with their sister Victoria, who has just ingested lye. Despite his pleas for assistance, the girl collapses and dies in Arthur’s arms. Though ruled as a suicide by the town physician, the locals blame the death on Arthur because he saw the alleged “Woman in Black”.
That night, Sam reveals he and wife Elizabeth lost their young son to drowning. Elizabeth suffers from fits of hysteria, which she attributes to her boy speaking through her. Onto the table, she carves a figure hanging from a beam, before Sam sedates her.
The next night at the Eel Marsh House, Arthur finds correspondence between Alice and her sister Jennet Humfrye (Liz White). Jennet denies Alice’s verdict of “mentally unfit” and demands to see her son Nathaniel, whom the Drablows formally adopted. A photo of the Drablows is defaced while Arthur’s back is turned. A death certificate reveals that Nathaniel drowned in a carriage accident on the marsh. Jennet blames Alice for saving only herself and for leaving Nathaniel’s body in the marsh without a proper burial. Jennet hangs herself in the nursery, vowing never to forgive Alice. Arthur also sees visions of dead children in the marshes, with the Fishers’ daughters and Victoria Hardy among their number.
The locked nursery door swings open, and the knocking sound of an empty rocker lures Arthur inside. The Woman in Black appears hanging from a roof beam. He runs outside to find Sam. Back in town, Mr Jerome’s house has seemingly caught fire with Jerome’s daughter (who’d been barricaded in the basement at the time) still inside. When Arthur attempts to save her, he sees the Woman goading the girl into immolating herself with a flood lantern. After witnessing her suicide, Arthur flees the building as it collapses. Upon his return, he sees the entire village looking on the scene. As they did with Victoria Hardy, the townspeople blame Arthur for the death and solidify their resentment of him.
Elizabeth says the Woman is Jennet, who appears before she takes a child away by having them commit suicide. Arthur’s young son Joseph, who is coming to Crythin Gifford the next day with his nanny, is Jennet’s next intended victim.
For a virtually wordless role, I think Daniel Radcliffe does extremely well; he expressively carries us through the movie pretty much by himself. Though the movie itself I personally didn’t find very frightening. It had some jumpy moments and the suspense was well built up, with Daniel Radcliffe stalking from room to room to find out what each noise was, and him being unable to stop each grizzly death. But then when it came to the few small moments where you see the Woman In Black she wasn’t particularly gruesome to look at. This was my second time watching it and I remember the first was in the cinema when it was released and I recall everyone was hyped up about how terrifying it was when you saw her. So, basically, I didn’t actually see any of the scenes she appears in the first time around, because I covered my eyes every time she appeared on screen because I’m a wuss and thought it was going to be too scary. But yesterday when I watched it again, I watched it with open eyes this time and to be honest, I was disappointed and surprised (even though I shouldn’t be, people are pretty stupid and easily scared) that people would actually be scared by it. But, I digress, even if the movie wasn’t the scariest film ever made, it was still pretty good. I enjoyed the gothic setting of the film and thought the ghost story itself was solid. Overall, it’s well acted, nicely shot and the story makes sense.
If you’re looking for nail-biting horror and suspense, this isn’t the ticket. But it is a nicely filmed and has a solid old-fashioned ghost story. It’s main purpose was to show Daniel Radcliffe was more than just Harry Potter, and it definitely does that. It has some really good scenes and the supporting actors play their roles well but overall it wasn’t as frightening as you’d expect.
The Woman In Black