Ghosts are so misunderstood. They die, they stay, and they wreak havoc on the minds of everyone in their path. Their reasons are many times justified. A mother of three is murdered by her husband. Instead of going on to the afterlife, she stays in order to murder or haunt all husbands that beat their wives. A child is dropped into a well in order to die. Instead of going on to the afterlife, she stays and haunts the very grounds she used to play and live on. Ghosts are misunderstood. While they cause so much fear, it may never amount to the terror or horror that they had to live through during their life. Revenge may seem pitiful, especially when you are dead, but it is difficult not to empathize with someone who died unjustly and then rightfully haunts individuals that walk into their path.
Unfortunately, The Woman in Black, is not about that kind of ghost. Instead it is about a ghost who seems to revel in the terror she causes. I like to think that in the beginning, she was just like many other ghosts who were just trying to take an eye for an eye, but this particular one seemed to take on a much more horrific persona either out of spite or pure joy. Anyone that has the potential to kill another person has to be pushed to a point in order to act on it. Some people are pushed to that point and then have the strength to pull themselves back. Some people are weak and when they do get pushed to that side, they don’t have the ability to come back. The woman in black is a perfect example of someone snapping and simply not being capable of returning to any sort of normalcy.
The movie begins with three small girls jumping out of a window for no apparent reason. Without explanation, the viewer is then introduced to Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a poor lawyer who lost his wife about four years earlier to childbirth. Luckily, the son did survive, but in the present time was upset at the fact that Arthur had to leave him in order to complete a job for work. This job required Arthur to pour through documents at the Eel Marsh House on the outskirts of London in order to eventually sell the large manor. Upon arriving at the city where the manor was built, Arthur realizes the citizens of the town do not want him there and are very cold. What follows is a very normal script for a ghost movie. There is a haunted house with a creepy lady and when this lady is looked at bad things happen.
What keeps this movie from being tossed into a bin containing movies like The Haunting or The Changeling is its ability to produce a significant amount of spook while also entwining an intriguing story. This movie will freak you out and it escalates as the film goes on. The beginning is long and slow, but once you get into the scares, you will feel like the film was worthwhile. Scares are of course pointless without a good story to go along with it and luckily this film does weave a great story. The story isn’t incredibly unique, but it works and keeps the viewer interested. I also felt like the ending was just and if it did leave the viewer upset, it didn’t make the viewer feel cheated by any means. I have given up the battle against stupid actors when it comes to ghost movies. If an actor hears weird noises upstairs in a haunted house, I have learned to accept that the actor will gleefully walk up without any sense of doom or worry. This movie has that and you may keep telling yourself that you would have just ran out of the house and not looked back, but luckily the story does justify Arthur’s stupidity with his necessity for completing the job in order to keep his job as a lawyer.
On horror island, a lady in black now enters the picture. While simple, this lady does have the ability to produce some scares in not only the other ghosts, but also the other creatures. Will this lady take on the greats? No, but she will always give that odd sense that something or someone is behind your shoulder. For someone like Freddy or Jason, that is enough to warrant praise and enough for me to recommend this movie to anyone that enjoys a spooky and well-produced film. Not all ghosts are white and look like Casper, so before anyone rules this film off as some stupid, post-Harry Potter, PG-13 waste of time, I ask them to wait until night, turn the lights off and watch the lady in black do her thing.
If you liked The Woman in Black, you might also like The Changeling and The Awakening.