Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gimme That Ol' Time Gothic

They say this is the worst time for movies because nothing's trying for an Oscar this month. "They" are provincial jackasses who wouldn't know cinema if it jumped up their own butt.

What I'm saying is The Woman in Black is a good movie. It's got solid acting, good pacing, and a genuinely fun story. I've said before how it seems only horror movies are bothering with these aspects anymore and it bears repeating. This is also a product of the legendary Hammer Films company (in association with about a dozen others) and those guys can turn the worst turd of a concept into solid gold.

It's a fairly standard Victorian horror story. London solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, working furiously to rid himself of that Harry Potter stink) travels to one of those quaint English towns full of terse xenophobes because his firm needs someone to go through the thousands upon thousands of papers left by the local noblewoman who just kicked the bucket. Hilarity ensues.

"Mother, is that you?"

And by hilarity I mean a screaming ghost woman terrorizes Kipps and murders the shit out of the village children. That's a bit of a shocker at first - children are typically nigh invulnerable in modern movies, unless they're cancer patients whose death brings the sobbing yuppie couple together. Nope, this is just straight up infanticide and while it has a logical explanation in the context of the film, that would be spoiling the mystery.

Because the people who made this movie realized something the modern gore-porn flicks can't seem to understand - horror isn't about what you see but what you don't see. Mood, atmosphere, all that jazz. Radcliffe turns out to be very good at this sort of work. He needs to be since the camera spends several long stretches just recording his reactions to the creaking old manor he travels to.

The manor deserves special mention. I don't know if this place exists and if it does I never want to go there. It's an overgrown mess out in a bog so wide it looks like the surface of an alien planet. That bog also plays a big role in the plot, explaining the titular Woman's motivation for snuffing kids which again I can't get into. Suffice it to say there is a mystery at work and Radcliffe solves it in his slow, deliberate explorations. Mostly. You can bet there's still some nasty surprises waiting for him at the end...

Throw in a solid supporting performance by Ciarán Hinds as the only friendly villager - with a car! - and you've got a damn fine film. And for those of you who see it just because of Radcliffe's previous gig - I hate you and wish you dead.

1 comment:

  1. Atmosphere and setting were definitely strong elements of the film. Lovecraft fans take note; reviewers have commented on the Lovecraftian feel of the film, and in fact the author of the novel on which the film is based, Susan Hill, has been compared to Lovecraft too (in her work as well as in her life).