The Woman in Black (1989) Review

The Woman in Black horror 1989

“Hey, Love Horror have put a second review for The Woman in Black on the site” I can hear some of the less observant of you yell.

And yes, this is a review for The Woman in Black, The Woman in Black 1989though not the Daniel Radcliffe, all whizzy, bangy glitzy version (you can see that here: The Woman in Black 2012). No, this is a review of the 1989 film. The film that haunted my childhood and made me both excited and anxious about the remake. So much was the anxiety, that I am still yet to see the 2012 incarnation. Why? Well, that’ll be the fault of The Fog remake (2005).

The Fog (1980) is my favourite all time horror film, and when the remake was released, I jumped in feet first, ignoring the warnings from my friends. “How could someone totally ruin The Fog? It’s impossible! All you have to do is replicate the original with some new effects and stuff. It’ll be excellent”

How wrong I was.

Anyway, back to The Woman in Black (1989).
The tale unfolds when a creepy estate is left without an heir. Arthur Kipps jumps at the chance to go up north and sort things out from a legal perspective. He’s a bright young solicitor that is keen to impress his boss and take on the jobs that no-one else wants. Even if that means leaving his wife and young child in London.

The Woman in Black house 1989

Upon his arrival at the village of Crythin Gifford, it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. The townsfolk are nervy and whenever he mentions his reason for visiting, he is met with disapproving looks and warnings.
You see, there’s something bad up in the abandoned manor, and after a couple of late night visits, it seems pretty obvious that there is a ghost of sorts haunting the place.
Determined to finish his job, he continues his work, listing to creepy tapes and often hearing the sound of a horrible accident on the causeway outside. Nothing is ever to be seen though.
The activity soon pushes Kipps to question his senses and all too late as it soon becomes apparent that the spectre of the Woman in Black isn’t going to let him leave without a fight.

The Woman in Black horror 1989

The Woman in Black is a magnificent BBC production. Just the sort of calibre of film that cemented the Beeb’s reputation for world class material back in the day.
Although it looks quite dated now, there’s piles of atmosphere and the setting is perfect for this classic ghost story.

Best of all, the tale never really needed flashy special effects (hence the huge success of the stage version) as much of the horror is created with sound, odd glimpses of spookiness and the bleak landscape.

The acting is a little stiff – characteristic of the time in which is was produced, but the fear and desperation is just as convincing as any modern horror.

The Woman in Black horror film 1989

It’s simplicity is what makes it so enduring. There are no real twists, no great reveals, and no miraculous escapes. Just a straight up, good old fashioned horror story, interpreted on the screen just the way that the author would have wanted it.

It’ll be interesting to see (when I eventually bring myself to do it) whether the 2012 version will stay rooted and true to the book or carried off on flights of SFX fantasy.

Movie Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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1 comments

I liked the BBC original much better than the remake. The changes to the plot in the remake slowed down the story and are very cliched (the recovery of the child’s body, the spirit writing from Sam’s dead child, Arthur’s being a grieving widower who sees his dead wife’s spirit, etc.)

The original was more effective because Arthur goes from being a happily married family man to losing everything, just because he took on a job no one else wanted. Whereas in the remake, Arthur is already pretty miserable and seems almost grateful to die and be reunited with his dead wife. It seems almost pointless for him to fight the Woman in Black. That kills the suspense. I also like the way in the original where Arthur returns to London with Mrs. Drablow’s papers–it makes you think he’s escaped. Then he hears the law clerks say that they’ve seen the Woman in Black and he burns the papers and you think, once again, that he’s escaped. But then he sees her again, when they’re out for a family jaunt, and you do not expect it at all.

Whereas in the remake, the ending is “telegraphed” very obviously.

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