DIRECTOR: James Watkins
Will we be adding this to our collection? YES
Ghost stories and Gothic Horror are not normally themes that people would associate with me, but there have always been exceptions, and this is one of them. This very English horror flick, based on the 1983 novel of the same name has been adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman, a writing talent that is proving to be of interest to me as Mrs. Johnathan Ross has penned some stunning screenplays over the past couple of years, such Kick Ass, X-Men First Class and now this.
I believe that there were several changes to the source novel, such as our lead, Mr Kipps, Daniel Radcliffe, being a widower in the film, but in the book he was happily married. What the full impact that this change had on the story is not for me to say but the fact that Kipps was a solemn and thoroughly unhappy character certainly did the narrative no harm what so ever.
The story begins with Kipps, a London lawyer, being sent to a remote north eastern town, to clear up the paperwork and the final affairs of a dead client. The house is obviously haunted by the troubled soul of the titular Woman In Black, who has a grievance with the town for the way that she and her young son had been treated in the past.
I am notoriously unaffected by horror films which has always bothered me as I would love to feel the excitement of the fear that these stories and films can evoke and the fact that this film had such pronounced word of mouth puzzled me and surely, no ghost story can be as frightening as the reviews and first hand accounts made out.
Well, it was.
Finally, I have found a film which creeped me out and made me jump, repeatedly! The scares are expertly crafted and worked into Goldman’s tight script, with the cultivation of mood never becoming boring and working towards its first of two major crescendos just 45 minutes into the 95 minute feature. This sequence, focusing on Kipps’ overnight stay in the house, was nothing short of brilliant, with a palpable sense of dread, fear and pay-offs that never seem to be over played.
The shock and scares are often worked into the corner of your eye but at its worst, or best, the shocks are loud and fundamentally disturbing flashes of events and people. The horror is beautifully played, choreographed and directed, as are the establishing and narrative scenes. The characters seem to be real and well-rounded even if they only appear fleetingly.
This must be one of the best and to me, most unexpected triumphs of British cinema in years and may in time become a true classic, with a feeling of age and establishment greater that its actual years. It feels as if it was written at the turn of the century, not the early 80’s. My only gripe with this almost perfect film, was Daniel Radcliffe, though I know that this will not be view shared by many.
I just didn’t buy Harry Potter as a widowed father of a 4-year-old and a lawyer to boot. I know that he’s 22 and that it’s not inconceivable that he would have married young, but I just feel that he didn’t carry the weight of a man in this situation or psyche and would have been better if the role had been cast with a slightly older actor.
Overall this was a surprise hit for me, and based on the reactions of the audience which saw this with me in the theatre, it was one that ill stay with people for a long time.