Oct 4, 2014

October 2014 Horror Movie a Day - Day 3: THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012)

My Day 3 feature for a Horror Movie a Day was the supernatural film The Woman in Black (2012).

You know things aren't going to go well for anyone when a movie opens with three young girls playing tea party, and then suddenly walk over to an attic window and leap out to their deaths.

That's right girls...just keep playing with your dolls..then oh yeah...leap to your death.

The film stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter picture as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer whose life is filled with melancholy since the death of his wife.  She died during childbirth, providing him with a son (played by Misha Handley) who draws his father with a frown because "that's what his face always looks like."  Once again we have the typical horror film character who mourns the loss of a loved one, and it constantly weighs upon him as he carries those ghosts around.

Yeah so Radcliffe..I'm getting that creepy haunted house right away..aren't you?

Radcliffe is sent by his employer to a remote town to clear up some paperwork involving the property of a recently deceased woman.  Radcliffe's depression has been affecting his work, so he's told to get it together or he'll be unemployed. Upon arriving at the town it's apparent that he's not welcome as the town people do everything but physically throw him back on the train to London.  It's a period piece so there are no cell phones, only one person has a phone (and he's not about to let Radcliffe at it) forcing him to rely on telegrams (from a post office that is conveniently always closed - to Radcliffe) and there is only one car in the town as everyone else is still traveling by horse-and-buggy.  It seems that children in this place have met with some nasty, fatal accidents, and it has started happening again which the town blames a clueless Radcliffe for.  Yes they don't want him there, but nobody wants to tell him exactly why - they just want him gone.

Very inviting marsh-front property.  5 bedroom, 3 bath and an angry evil inhabitant.

The house he has to spend time in has all the trappings of a perfect cinematic haunted house.  It's completely isolated, old and Gothic.  It is surrounded by a marsh that when the tide flows in, completely immerses the road under water making it impossible to get in or out until the it lowers.  It's dark and drab, filled with the creepiest of dolls and music boxes (there are ALWAYS creepy dolls and music boxes in these things) which seem to stare at Radcliffe with an evil glint in their lifeless eyes.  In fact, one technique employed in this film has the light from Radcliffe's candle reflecting in the doll's eyes, making it look as though they are staring at him.  It's creepy and effectively suggests that this house is alive with evil even though it's really just a reflection from his candle.  Just the kind of place for a depressed guy who has been told to get the job done 'or else' to hang out in.

Ummm..turn around dude

When Radcliffe is alone in the house (which he almost always is because nobody else will go near it), things move without physical aid, creaky old rocking chairs rock mysteriously, fresh hand-prints show up on windows, pasty-white evil faces appear then disappear from the darkness, shadows move about behind an unknowing Radcliffe, and to top it off, the bloody corpses of the town's deceased children stand grouped in the rain just to add to the overall frightening ambiance of the place.  More kids die and by this point, the townspeople are about to pull out the pitchforks on Radcliffe, and he realizes that his son is on his way to the town and may now also be in danger.  Time to figure out the mystery of this creepy 'woman in black' before she can work her evil on his unsuspecting boy.

If the creepy monkey doll wasn't enough to scare you Daniel, the writing is LITERALLY on the wall

The film takes a while to get moving, but that works for the tone of the picture.  All the shots of the town paint it as the most depressing place on earth with a constantly overcast sky, frightened pale-faced small-town yokels who have a permanent look of anger mixed with terror fixed on their faces and seem like they have never seen the sun ever, and the isolation of the place literally bleeds off the screen.  All camera shots during trips leading to and from the evil house are enhanced by beautiful, sweeping helicopter shots and somber and eery music which lets you know that this is a place where death lives.  A crazy woman has her two small dogs sit in high chairs (like children) at a dinner table, then goes into hypnotic states scratching eery images into the table with her knife.  There is also a great tension filled sequence involving a pool of mud.


A few well placed scares made me jump, but what this picture effectively did was give me chills down my spine.  Yes it wants you to jump, but it's more concerned with making you uneasy which it is successful in doing.

 Who ya gonna call? Harry Potter!

The pace may be too slow for some horror fans, but Radcliffe is solid - trading in his Hogwarts magic wand for sideburns - as are the production design and cinematography giving the audience a pretty creepy haunted house story with a solid mythology that should have had the residents of that town leaving on the next train themselves instead of sticking around like they do.