The Woman In Black: DanRad in Victorian Wear- A Review

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Elena-

This movie is kind of a duh for me.

It is Harry Potter.  I want to see if he can actually, you know, do something besides wield a wand with great conviction and look by turns sullen and put-upon.

It is a ghost story that looks like it might actually be scary, not just jumpy or gory but actually creep you out scary.  Far too many of the horror movies out these days are either not creepy-scary or are so blood-soaked the terror is split between fear and disgust, which generally lessens the degree to which you feel either emotion.

Also it is a Victorian ghost story so…COSTUMES!
Rachel-

Harry Potter influence disclosure!!! Plus I really like ghost movies (The Others, anyone?). The film is based on a book of the same name by Susan Hill. It has already been adapted into a very successful and long-running play on London’s West End and I’ve heard from friends who have seen the play that it would probably make a better movie, but the play is still pretty good.

That’s… as good a recommendation as any, no?

Ok, so it’s Daniel Radcliffe in period costume. SHUT UP.

 


What would make it awesome?

Rachel-

This question makes no sense. Daniel Radcliffe in period costume. What the hell else do you want?

I’m going to assume that this is going to be a little old fashioned, British scary movie. Meaning that it isn’t gory as much as it is classically scary.

Elena-

If it’s scary and smart, with good acting, some artsy directing, and a nice ambiguous ending like the best ghost stories all have.  Oh, and if Dan wears a waistcoat with distinction!

Rachel-

I just want to say that whenever I hear the term “waistcoat” my brain always says, “Why don’t people just say VESTS?” I mean really… what do old timey people have against vests?

Elena-

But—but—but—it was an underCOAT! Worn to cover a man’s WAIST.  It makes PERFECT SENSE.  What is a vest?  It’s a shortening of vestment, I think?  So…a really short priest’s robe?  That’s even worse.

What would make it suck?

Rachel-

If the story is easily figured out, if DanRad is awful, if no one is wearing period costumes.

Elena-

If Daniel Radcliffe proves he has no acting abilities whatsoever.

If it goes stupid the way so many haunted house stories go stupid…I guess by that I mean if it’s totally predictable and full of people running up the stairs when they should be running out of the fucking house, etc.

If the theater is full of stupid tween DR fans who scream every time he shows up on screen.  This happened to one of my friends opening night.  It convinced me to wait to see the film a bit later on its theatrical run.

Thoughts on casting/production?

Rachel-

I have no idea who else is in this film. I think from the trailer that I’m supposed to accept that DanRad is a family man. That…is kind of dumb. He’s what? 18? (I know he’s older than that but give me a break, he’s not a FATHERLY person.)

Now I’m thinking about the HP epilogue, and it’s making me upset!

Elena-

Right?  That epilogue was just…sad.  Also I know Victorian gents of good morals probably married early (I mean how long is he gonna wait to dip the wick, amiright?), but I don’t think “early” meant…16.

Anyway, I’m excited to see what Harry can do out of Hogwarts.  I know this isn’t his first role in a non-HP film or anything, but it’s the first movie I’ve been interested in as a film to go see him in.  The other(s) he’s done just didn’t have an independent appeal, and while I like DR and wish him well and am curious about his career prospects, I just don’t feel any of those things strongly enough to go to a movie solely because he is in it.

Otherwise, I…really don’t know much about this movie.  I know it’s based on a book that was written in 1983, so not an ACTUAL Victorian ghost story (which might have been cooler, to be honest), just one set then.  I also don’t know much about the director or the studio even though everyone is talking about Hammer rising from the grave to make this film.  Um…okay.  This is where growing up under that rock becomes obvious, because…what’s Hammer studios?  Why do I care?  Right.  Where’s Harry Potter?

Reaction to film:

Rachel-

Delightfully old fashioned scary movie! It reminded me a lot of House on Haunted Hill (the old one) because it relied on suspense mixed with scary noises and the imagination of the audience to generate the majority of the scares.

It was definitely far stronger in the beginning than it was in the ending (the motivation of the Woman in Black wasn’t very satisfying for example) especially the 20-minute scene when DanRad spends the night for the first time in Eel Marsh House. I found myself jumping at every noise, peering into every shadow. It’s in the interaction with the inhabitants of the village and the ending that force me to give this one a B- rather than an A. The rich couple with the lost child confused me, I was convinced they were the sister and brother-in-law of the Woman in Black until I got home and looked it up on Wikipedia.  They weren’t, which kind of pissed me off because I just couldn’t figure out the whole “NEVER FORGIVE” twist of the film without it being a vengeance gig against at least ONE of the onscreen characters.

Stupid.

Poor DanRad, he worked so hard to “solve the mystery” and then just got smacked in the end. WRONG. Thanks for helping me out in the only way you could but I’m going to kill you anyways! “Never Forgive” except DanRad never did ANYTHING to you stupid dead cow! LEAVE DANRAD ALONE!!!!

Besides the ending, which is pretty much what happens in the book, I had a few other beefs with the film. Namely that DanRad’s character was kind of dumb. Really dumb. Like, take me to the lonely decaying mansion that is only accessible during low tide in this creepy village where all the children kill themselves, and I’ll just wander around said decaying mansion thinking I can see my dead wife and generally going INTO rooms where creepy noises come from, with a culmination of jumping into a gross marsh bog to retrieve a mummified corpse.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DANRAD? JUST ALOHAMORA YOU’RE FUCKING WAY OUT OF THERE! RUN! GET OUT!

Is it that you can’t use the Internet yet in Ye Olde England or Scotland or wherever the fuck you are?

I CAN FIX THAT.

Here’s a telegram I could have sent you near the beginning of the film:


Here is one I could have sent after I peeled my hands off of my face and summoned up the courage to look at more of the screen than the bottom right corner while my boyfriend made fun of me – only to see you carry about a tar-covered child-mummy for a while which totally freaked me out and you should not have done that, but then it only got worse:

Here is the telegram I would have sent after the fiftieth time DanRad assured everyone that despite the hangings, and the possessed ladies, and the poisonings and the fires and the jumping to their deaths out of windows incidents involving the children of this town – that you are still having your toddler son come to visit you:

And finally, here is the telegram I would have sent to you at the end of the film, when that stupid whore of a ghost lady decided that despite all your hard work and effort and jumping into bogs that she in fact, did NOT appreciate you or feel at ease or placated or whatever it is that makes ghosts not stupid whores…and you wouldn’t have received it, but maybe that nice nanny who didn’t ask to be dragged to the evil possessed town and I hope she gets back to London OK, could read it for you:

 

Elena-

This turned out to be one of those movies that you like well enough when you first come out, but there’s a bit of confusion so you start talking about it with your friends, and the more you talk about it the more you realize the story is full of holes and doesn’t quite take you to where it was probably trying to.  And then come the inevitable comparisons to how the book set up the scenario, so why did they change this or that because it didn’t just make things more dramatic, it changed the whole implications of that part of the story, etc.

I mean, on the whole the movie wasn’t bad.  I enjoyed the very gothic feel of its visuals a lot.  The house was fucking perfect.  Daniel looked good in the waistcoat, and suitably gaunt and haunted in the way only a melancholic Victorian gentleman could.  I will go see him in more movies.  He still might not be enough of a lure on his own, but he will still be one point in a film’s favor if I am undecided.

There were parts of the movie that creeped me the fuck out.  I just…wish it had all been a little bit tighter in the motivations.  What I mean by this more than anything, I think, is that I had to suspend disbelief in a few too many places for the whole thing to seem credible.

I mean, I really wanted to send this telegram to the villagers:

This is the telegram I wanted to send to DanRad Kipps when he saw his dead wife for the twentieth time:

And why would the woman in black still go after Harry when he did his best to lay her ghost and give her back her child?  And how did she even know he had a kid to begin with to come after him away from the house?  It made more sense in the book, when he didn’t try to do anything for her, that she might come after him again later.  Here it was like…well, damn, you’re just the cuntiest ghost in Christendom, ain’t ya?

 All of this detracted from the chills and fuck-me jumps experienced during the actual viewing experience.

Rachel-

Here is where I think I’ll blame the stage production rather than the book. Because, honestly, if the kid had been mown down by a carriage and DanRad had lived to be a cranky old ghost-hunter in a VEST…well actually that would have been a good movie.

Nevermind.

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