Friday, February 3, 2012
The Woman in Black (1989)
Original Air Date: December 24th, 1989
I guess it’s confession time again: I don’t believe in ghosts.
Maybe I should clarify this statement. I don’t not believe in ghosts, but I don’t believe in them either. But there’s even more, while I might or might not believe in ghosts, the supernatural sub-genre often terrifies more than the straight truer to life stuff. I’m not sure why that is, but it probably has something to do with being on the fence of whether or not I should believe that there are unseen forces lurking about me at all times.
Of course, supernatural thrillers can be as supernatural-y as they want but if they aren’t suspenseful or scary, then they are total failures. And there are quite a few of those, I imagine (I'm looking at you Grudge). But look at who gets it right: on the big screen we’ve got classics such as The Haunting and The Changeling (one of my all time favorites). On the small screen we’ve got surefire classics such as Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Don’t Go To Sleep. When these films work, they W-O-R-K… I feel like I should have added a girl after work, but maybe I've been thinking about RuPaul too much.
The Woman in Black is indeed a ghostly classic with enough nightmarish overtones that it has managed to maintain a fairly nice status despite being foreign and somewhat unavailable. Adrian Rawlins is Arthur Kidd, a handsome, happily married solicitor sent to a sleepy town to settle a widow’s estate. Her house is creepily called The Eel Marsh House, and indeed it looks just like you think it will. At the widow’s funeral a woman dressed in all black watches from a distance. She will become an eerie presence in Kidd’s life as he unwraps the mystery surrounding her. And as you can probably guess, some mysteries are better left unsolved.
There’s not too much I can say about The Woman in Black without feeling like I’ve given something away. It’s devastatingly remote, unnerving and tragic. It’s a slow-burn of a film, but it is also not without a couple of terrifying payoffs. Based on Susan Hill’s novel, which I have not read, the adaptation by Nigel Kneale (The Stone Tapes) is ridden with anxiety and sadness, as Kidd struggles with what he has uncovered (or unleashed). The location is also beautifully moody, which only enhances the sense of terror which keeps encroaching upon Kidd.
Did I say I love The Woman in Black? OK, now I have.