On opening weekend, I went with my boyfriend to see the film, Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by Susan Hill. After watching the incredibly creepy trailers and covering it over here at Optionated, I really really wanted to see this movie. Watching scary movies is one of my favorite past-times and as scary as the movie looked from the previews, I knew I had to see it in theaters and not just 3 months from now in my apartment (which by the way, I am about 84% sure is haunted).
Overall, this was a pretty scary movie. I definitely did not disappoint. So here are the 5 reasons that Woman in Black was scary as hell.
:::::Warning there are some mild spoilers ahead::::
1. Creepy Kids
I have a pretty irrational fear of children, in most respects. They are tiny, with big eyes and a unique position to be taken over by ghosts (I.E. Poltergeist, Insidious, really any supernatural horror movie at some point during the plot.) So generally children in horror films, freak me out. this movie had an abundance of dead ghost children. Not to mention a dead muddy children rising from the marshes only to sneak into the house and finds its way to his bedroom to be even creepier there. One of the weirdest things about the children was the soulless look on their faces as they walked (or jumped, or burned, or drank lye) to their death. It was incredibly unsettling.
The unsettling stare of death in a child…. shiver.
Towards the end of the film, we got some great glimpses of all of the towns dead children just chillin’ following Arthur Kipps around, which would throughly freak me out if I was him. (Personally, At the first site of the titular woman’s eye in that spinning thing would have sent me running home).
2. Creepy Toys
This is a big one. Whoever the prop team was, did a freaking fantastic job making the house this film takes place in creepy. I don’t know why old toys always look weird and unsettling. I mean I can’t think of a better adjective than creepy for the toys that were prevalent during this time period. And whoever found (or made) the toys for this movie found he creepiest ones of all. From the oddly painted clowns to the dolls with teeth appearing to be filed down to look like a mouth full of fangs (and we can’t forget the incredibly racist african monkey toys).
All the toys in the movie were downright disconcerting. It made me wonder who the hell would play with these as a child and NOT get nightmares from the very sight of them?
Seriously… So weird.
It also didn’t help that they toys in the film would inexplicably move on their own and start moving. The cat playing the violin becoming sinister looking, the jovial clowns beating on their drums were all together terrifying. Even the racist african toys move and play on their own to create their own horrifying backdrop for a ghostly encounter.
3. Creepy Scream
The titular Woman in Black was pretty scary. I will definitely admit that. Whoever did her makeup to look all dead and cracked and decaying did a phenomenal job. But it wasn’t her far that sent shivers down my spine, no it was her scream. As the film got going, and she wasn’t just a woman standing around, but now a thoroughly pissed off woman, she did this piercing scream that can only be described as a scream of death (pretty similar to a banshee the more I think about it).
Often it was almost complete silence when she let out her impish shriek of impending doom, which added to the terror affect. However, while it was scary (and I kept expecting it to occur in my apartment in the dark while I slept) it was more of a shock terror as opposed to an actual unsettling moment like other parts of the film.
4. What You Don’t See Can Get You
There were several parts where the audience could only see something briefly, or barely. This technique is great because at the beginning you don’t really know who she is, what she wants, or where she is headed and that in itself is pretty scary. (This one of the reasons I love the Paranormal Activity series). This film really utilizes the “what you can’t see is what will get you” idea. Whether it is a wisp of black in a mirror during an uneventful scene, or an empty rocking chair that won’t stop rocking, I found myself clenching tightly in anticipation of what as about to happen, more so then what did happen (or in some cases didn’t happen). There was one scene where we see the woman heading for a sleeping Arthur but we don’t see her so much as see darkness heading for him. She gets so close she can almost touch him before he wakes up and she is gone. But that tense scene doesn’t even feature a fully visible woman to scare, just the idea that she is heading his way while he is vulnerable.
She is barely visible in this scene but it was still terrifying.
The great thing about this film was that, the filmmakers (and original story) didn’t have to rely on gore or cheesy setups to get scares out of the audience. It used a minimalist type of filmmaking for most of the first half and followed it up with the action shock scenes to bring the thrill home.
I touched on this briefly in the section above, but the use of darkness in this film definitely added to its frightening moments. Having the character surrounded by darkness is always a goo technique because it forces the audience to feel the disorienting emotions of the scene right along with the character. This whole movie (almost) is shot in a dark house. Before the days of electricity. Yes, he lights like a million candles but those only give off light in like a 5 foot radius. Most scenes that takes place in the house are well lit in the front wherever the character is but the darkening background houses no light and no salvation (and often the woman just chillaxing watching Arthur in a slightly voyeur type of way.)
This scene is super dark, it is hard to tell what anything is other than himself.
Other than the darkly lit world this film takes place in, the film also uses darkness in another way. Obviously in portraying the woman in black. She is always in black and she is often just scene surrounded in by darkness. She also makes herself known to the audience by either just being a blur of black or a by blending into the shadows just to move and you realize she has been there the whole time. This is one of the best types of scares in the film. Where the audience and Arthur think they are safe or its an uneventful moment until you see a shift in the shadows behind him and realize that the woman has been watching him (and it kind of feels like she is watching you too) the whole time.
Over all this movie was pretty good. It definitely got some good jumps out of me (and my boyfriend). Even with the cheesy not book accurate ending, the movie still got a 4 out of 5 stars from me (this is partly due to the cutest dogs wearing sailor suits… seriously it was gold).