The Woman in Black (2012)

Daddy … Who’s That Lady?

To finish off my reviews of “What to Expect When You’re Inducting” – also known as “Reviews That Were Inspired by my Vacation” – I must come around to the second movie I saw in theaters that were within walking distance of a hotel in Arizona.  Thankfully, today’s movie won’t require that I watch and review three movies before I review this one (as Underworld did), and also won’t require me to feign sadness over the loss of a singer (as The Bodyguard did).  This one can stand alone.  Also, I have a vague recollection of coworker-ish person, Sam, requesting that I review this movie.  Whatever the inspiration, here comes The Woman in Black, based on a novel by Susan Hill, written for the screen by Jane Goldman, directed by James Watkins, and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Misha Handley, Jessica Raine, and Sophie Stuckley.

As we start, three young girls simultaneously commit suicide.  But we’ll get back to that.  Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a very sad person.  Four years ago, his wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during the birth of their child Joseph (Misha Handley) and Arthur refuses to get the fuck over it for the betterment of his son.  I understand you loved the lady, but you’ve had four years and you’re making the household like a fucking mortuary for your son because you just can’t stop being emo.  In order to return to his life, Arthur goes back to his overly forgiving place of work and they give him a job of arranging the estate of recently deceased Alice Drablow.  Upon arrival, he quickly finds that the local town has come down with a nasty case of the Creepy Assholitis and everyone just decides to be automatically rude and distant from Arthur.  He befriends Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) and his wife Elizabeth (Janet McTeer), and goes about the business of looking through giant stacks of paper in a creepy, isolated house.  Creepy things start happening around the house, finally culminating with Arthur catching sight of “The Woman in Black” and hearing what sounds like people screaming in the distance.  When he reports this to the constable, two boys from the village bring their sister in because she has drunk lye.  She coughs up blood and dies.  It soon comes out that seeing the Woman in Black causes a kid in the nearby town to commit suicide.  Arthur keeps going to the house to finish his job, either because he doesn’t believe all the poppycock or because he could give two fucks about the kids of the town, but then a wrench is thrown into the works when it turns out HIS child is coming to the town to visit him.  Arthur must figure out what happened to the Woman in Black and fix it in order to save the life of the one kid in the village that matters: his own son.

The Woman in Black is a decently enjoyable movie with a disappointing and annoying ending, but we’ll get to that in the appropriate place.  The bulk of the movie – though thoroughly morose in parts – was a nice little offering of “Pop Up, Go Bwah” startles with a decent enough story.  The start is a little soft, sticking mainly with the creepy and melancholy and not even trying to scare you for at least a half hour, unless you count the three girls jumping out a window that starts the movie, but I mainly just found that funny.  Then we’re just in a town full of douche nozzles that would rather be twats to you than be regular human beings, but that’s okay because they all get punished for it.  After leaving the movie it occurred to me that the deaths of the numerous children in this movie could’ve been avoided if everyone in town would have just told Arthur why they thought he should leave instead of just trying to shove him onto the nearest carriage home.  If they told him that going to the house could result in the deaths of children, he could’ve either responded with “That’s brilliant” or “That’s rubbish”, but when the first kid died in his arms he might’ve had a little more to think about.  Once we get to the house, they drop most of the first startles on us subtly, having the Woman in Black appearing in the background and turning so that we knew she was there but Arthur was oblivious.  The next couple visits to the house amp it up exponentially, but if WiB’s goal was to kill children, why are you fucking with Radcliffe?  And she did … a lot.  She must’ve thought Radcliffe was getting a little chubby since his Harry Potter days, because she would constantly make noise upstairs until he ran up there, then she would be outside in the front yard, so he’d have to run down to check that out.  Wash, rince, and repeat.  About the second time it happened I’d just be thinking “Fuck off, I’m tired.  I’m staying right here and ignoring you.”  On one visit, Daily loans Arthur his dog to keep an eye out, and I don’t know why he didn’t take that dog everywhere.  It was a small and unimposing dog, but I’d appreciate having someone to watch my back.  The movie begins to devolve into a mystery, trying to figure out why WiB is so angry and how to fix it, but there really wasn’t much of a mystery to be solved.  You probably could guess by the first time she causes a kid to commit suicide, but WiB had a kid and something bad happened, so now she takes it out on the townspeople’s children.  The townspeople are also very quick to blame Arthur for causing the thing that none of those fucks told him about.

My biggest problem with this movie was the ending, so I’ll throw out one of these ::SPOILER ALERT::  At the very end of the movie, Arthur meets up with his son and the son’s nanny, being relatively assured that the problem was solved by digging WiB’s son out of the marsh and burying him next to her.  So assured is he that he totally ignores his son as he goes to buy a train ticket.  WiB pops back up and causes the kid to walk onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train, Arthur jumps down to save him, both die.  I have many problems with this ending.  First, when Arthur’s wife’s ghost shows up dressed in white the movie missed a golden opportunity to have a kung-fu battle between WiB and WiW, but if all writers had my creativity and good judgment then I wouldn’t be special anymore.  That just leaves a much bigger problem: Why are you being such a bitch, WiB?  Arthur had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of your son, and wasn’t even nearby when it happened.  On top of that, he actually risked his life to save the corpse of your son to reunite you with him.  How do you repay him?  Kill him and his son?  Fuck you.  In this situation lies yet another problem: after all the shit you just watched go down in this town, why the fuck would you take your eyes off your son until you were far enough away to feel safe?  You didn’t KNOW that your little idea had worked; you just assumed it did.  No giant green checkmark appeared on the wall after you put the dead kid in with his mother, so maybe it’s best to be weary for a bit longer.  The biggest problem with the ending is that it was easy and not very good.  It just seemed like a quick little wrap up, but taking special care to make sure that no one left the theater feeling good about themselves.  ::END SPOILER::

The performances in the movie were fine, but there was a common annoyance that all of them shared: everyone in this movie was always on the verge of tears.  It would’ve been nice to have at least one character come around to break the monotony of depression.  This will also be a very short paragraph because there’s really only one or two people in this movie for any prolonged period.  Radcliffe does a commendable job in this movie, and hopefully gives the man a chance to try out movies that aren’t reminiscent of Harry Potter more in the future.  The only comparison to Harry Potter I could draw from this movie (and I was definitely looking) was that the approaching Woman in Black sounded a little like Parseltongue.  Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer were good as well, or at least I’m assuming they are because they are the only other people I remember being in this movie.

I was altogether pleased with my viewing of The Woman in Black.  There was a good deal of suspense and thrills, an admittedly mediocre mystery, and a piss poor, irritating ending, but I enjoyed the experience altogether, in no small part because it looked really good and had some good (albeit emo) performances.  I saw this movie in theaters (and granted, on a matinee) but I don’t regret it.  If you can make your way into a movie theater for about $5, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the experience.  The Woman in Black gets “I believe even the most rational mind can play tricks in the dark” out of “If we open the door to superstition, where does it lead?”

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