From a novel, to a stage play, to a TV movie the story of The Woman in Black is as enduring as it is effecting; as timeless as it is terrifying; and the latest adaptation which darkens our cinema screens does not disappoint.
Set in the early 19th Century the story follows widower Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young lawyer assigned the task of sorting out the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow who owned the abandoned Eel Marsh House.
After bidding his young son and his nanny goodbye he journeys up to the small village of Crythin Gifford where it seems the locals are less than happy at his arrival.
Determined to press on with the task at hand he heads to the old building which sits abandoned and isolated from the mainland, save the perilous causeway which at high tide completely disappears. This leaves him isolated, surrounded by the water outside and the sea of paperwork to get through.
But he is not quite alone, because inside the Eel Marsh House resides the woman in black. Her story, which Kipps slowly uncovers, is as alive and powerful as the terrible and terrifying fate that befalls the children of the village whenever she is seen – a fate that Kipps realises may befall his own son unless he can stop her.
As mentioned The Woman in Black is famous due to its status as the second longest-running play in the history of the West End. It’s still shocking audiences today with its stripped down production with a two man cast and minimal set manage to enrapture and petrify people for over 20 years.
Luckily it seems that scriptwriter Jane Goldman (the pen behind Stardust, Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class) has learnt from the theatrical adaptation, keeping the central story and the atmosphere central to the Hammer Films big budget transfer, directed by James Watkins.
As Goldman’s script keeps character development key creating an emotional centre to the movie that grips you from the start, Watkins, heading up his second feature after debut Eden Lake, makes sure that atmosphere is everything. He slowly amps up the tension until it overflows from the screen in some fantastically frightening set pieces. They’ll have you on the edge of your seat and then hiding under it.
Make no mistake this is a horror film full of frights. It throws everything at the audience, from subtle creeping scares to great jumps to nerve shredding shocks (none of it thankfully in 3D as once was planned).
What sets this film above the rest is that when it gets going it doesn’t stop. With the intensity of certain scenes taking you on a dark, doom-filled ride which seems unstoppable – like a ghost train running of the rails.
And in the middle of all of this is Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. he gives a great performance and annihilates any idea of the niche many naysayers feel he would fall into. As the main focus of the film, and appearing in almost every scene a lot of pressure sits on Radcliffe’s shoulders. Thankfully he triumphs.
His boyish looks and fresh face are now pale and bloodless, his black ringed eyes betray the tragedy his character has been through at such a young age and Radcliffe perfectly embodies and inhabits the character of Kipps, a man who is hollow and haunted even before his journey into hell commences.
In the same way that the stage show employs every tactic available to scare its audience whilst never losing sight of the sensational story it was based on, this new big screen version of The Woman in Black is a great ghost story, wonderfully adapted which will transport and terrify you at the same time.
Much like Arthur Kipps once you’ve seen The Woman and Black you will never forget the fear.