A ridiculously awesome gothic mansion, surrounded by a mystical marsh, tons of dead children, the CREEPIEST, MOST HORRIFYING TOYS I have EVER SEEN, and the Boy Who Lived. These are the main facets of the really effectively scary and enjoyable new film, The Woman In Black.
If you go to a scary movie with me, you’re gonna get some extra entertainment for your dollar. I am incapable of sitting still when I’m scared. I jump, gasp, usually yell OH SHIT (completely involuntarily), and 100% of the time I have a coat, sweater, my hands – anything I can get ahold of, surrounding my eyes so that they can be protected from whatever is coming at them from the screen. Nikki, on the other hand, somehow remains motionless (she claims that she jumps, but if she does, it’s undetectable to the human eye), and she certainly never utters a sound (except to giggle at my terror). I’d say, for a good 2/3 of Woman, my coat was pulled up around my face and I was burrowed down deep into my seat. There are LOADS of shocks/startling noises/movements/faces in windows. If you find that kind of shtick to be cheap and pandering, I don’t know what to tell you. I find it to be effective at making me almost crap my drawers. The shocker here is that during one scene in particular, my compadre in blogging audibly GASPED and jumped. This caused me to burst out in maniacal laughter. But back to the review. >:)
Jane Goldman, who wrote two of my favoritest films from the past few years, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class (oh and she also wrote the gorgeous Stardust, which is sooo worth your 2 hours), adapted this ghostly spooker from a book by Susan Hill. Goldman has a serious knack for writing just flat-out engaging stories. Characters who hold your interest, and plot lines with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, leaving you both contended and simultaneously wanting more. She’s also married to British chat show host Jonathan Ross and has bright pink hair, so she officially qualifies as a bad ass. Idol alert!
Daniel Radcliffe puts in a solid first post-Potter performance as the widower and father, Arthur Kipps, a struggling lawyer who gets the job no one else will do: Dragging their ass out to a ginormous, empty, haunted mansion in the middle of a marsh, where the tide comes in and out, isolating the home from the mainland for hours at a time. The remaining living owner has passed away, and somebody needs to go through her stacks and stacks of personal papers. Kipps’ boss never mentions that the entire town will refuse to help him, demanding and forcing him to leave, due to the mystery/misery surrounding the home and its secrets.
I didn’t know what to expect from Radcliffe, but I thought he delivered. How can I buy Harry Potter as a widower with a toddler?, thought Annie. At 22, he’s certainly of age to play a father, especially in Victorian times. Arthur is continually anguished by the death of his wife, so he’s also meant to be a slightly befuddled dad, mostly relying on the nursemaid for help. He looks sad/tries to do the best thing for his kid appropriately.
As Arthur has to bribe his way out to the property, and is faced with the fairly mammoth task of going through the deceased’s files (let alone finding them all), surrounded by gloom, noises, and shadows/figures/faces everywhere, it’s lucky for him that he manages to find some help. The always reliable Irish actor Ciarán Hinds is Mr. Daily, the only member of the dark, foreboding town who is willing to assist poor Arthur. There’s a scene where they are sitting opposite each other on a train (Radcliffe will forever-more seem appropriate on an old-fashioned locomotive), and all I could think was, Aberforth and Harry! Daily is a good man, who refuses to believe in all the hocus pocus that everyone else is upset over. “Everyone else” includes his batshit wife, played by Janet McTeer, who is scary/pathetic/funny in an awesome way. Just wait till you see her “twins.”
I have to say that what sealed the deal for me in my satisfaction with the story was the chilling, interesting ending. The final scene in a scary movie might be the most important one, when you think about it, and Woman has an excellent one. In fact, the more Nikki and I both have thought about this film, the more we agree that we really liked it. It’s a compelling, slightly original take on the whole “dead children” storyline that loads of films employ. And wait till you see the TOYS. *Shudders, shits self*