THE WOMAN IN BLACK, 1989
Starring: Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, David Daker, Pauline Moran
When a lawyer is sent to a newly deceased woman's home to put her things in order for auction, he unravels the truth about the house of why he's hearing screams at night and seeing a woman in black that nobody will tell him more about. REVIEW:
"The Woman in Black" is a classic ghost story come to life in this British made film (that I believe was actually a made-for-tv movie that was then released on dvd).
Solicitor Arthur Kidd (who's being re-named Arthur Kipps in the American re-make starring Daniel Radcliffe being released in theaters in 2012) is charged by his firm with the duty of going to the seaside town of Crythin to settle the estate of a newly deceased woman.
Along with rummaging through her things in hopes of something to sell at auction, he attends the woman's funeral where the only other people in attendance are the caretaker and a mysterious older woman in a black dress... who seems to come and go in the blink of an eye.
Nobody in the town will answer Arthur when he goes asking questions about who the woman in black is, or why nobody wants to go near the old woman's house. And when he goes searching through her belongings, he is haunted by the sounds of a horrific carriage accident, and a strange locked room.
During his investigation, Kidd learns that wherever the woman in black goes, accidents befall people... usually children. He saves a young gypsy girl from certain doom, which seems to put the woman in black's rage on himself.
As seems to be the case with British cinema (ESPECIALLY made for TV British cinema), "The Woman in Black"'s color grading looks like it was shot on film stock that was exposed twenty years earlier! Everything about the look of the film is slightly off in that old sort of way, and I can pretty much guarantee that it's due to lack of budget rather than being a stylistic choice.That being said, the cinematography is actually pretty decent for a British film. There's an old joke that in British cinema, you'll get a shot of a cloud, followed by a shot of a cloud, followed by a shot of yet another cloud. In other words, it's all boring and slow and incredibly uninteresting. And while I feel that the DP for this film could have put a little more movement in the film (it seemed like nearly every shot was static on a tripod), I have to admit there were some well framed shots. It wasn't the most interesting looking movie around, but for what it was, it was alright to look at.
Sadly, the acting was nowhere near the realm of "good". It was absolutely horrid. All the players in the film were equivalent to cardboard cutouts that could speak and move. There was very little emotion, and I never really believed that the lead character was ever authentically scared... more like a stage actor playing scared on cue. The whole thing felt forced. The only character in the film that I actually believed their emotions was the absolutely creepy-as-hell Woman in Black! There is one scene in particular where she made my skin crawl with the look on her face as she lunged toward our "hero" (unfortunately, the editor then left the shot on the screen for way too long and it quickly went from frightening to funny).
There also seemed to be almost an entire lack of soundtrack. Through more than ¾ of the film, there was only environmental "wild sound" with no real music of any kind. The only time music came in was in scenes where authentically creepy things happened, and even then, the music sounded like a complete "Psycho" knockoff. Now, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the film had engaging acting, but sadly it did not and I kept drifting from what was going on in the scene.
The best part of this film was, hands down, the screenplay. The over-all story, and even it's beats, were very well written and had me trying to figure out the mystery for myself and wanting to know what was going to happen next. It's just unfortunate that the acting was so poor.
All in all, I'd say that "The Woman in Black" was an ok film with a very good story. It is worth a watch if you're looking for a really good ghost story to watch that's on par with "The Shining". I'll be interested to see how the American remake turns out when it hits theaters next year.
I give "The Woman in Black" a 2.5/5.
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