Friday, 14 August 2015

The Woman in Black (2012)

"She makes us do it..."

This is the first of the new wave of Hammer horrors I've seen and, if this is anything to go by, I'm glad that Hammer are back. It's also interesting to see Daniel Radcliffe excel in his first true cinematic adult role- as a father and widower, no less. How very pointedly adult.

This is a solid and impressive adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel by Jane Goldman, who has written many excellent films of a fantasy bent. I'd still like to see the 1989 TV adaptation, as it's written by the great Nigel Kneale, but this script is pretty awesome. Similarly, it's odd to see the likes of Jessica Raine and Roger Allam in such small parts but the cast here is excellent. So is the direction. In short, it's good.

I should probably be clear that I haven't read the original novel, but I found the plot satisfying and the film even a little scary. A little bit, at least. And I'm so much of a rationalist that, unlike my endearingly terrified wife this evening, I'm rarely actually scared of horror films.

Rationalism versus superstition is a theme here, of course, with Sam Daily holding out as the only person in the village who isn't superstitious. In the real world he'd be right, of course, but this is a horror film. And, I think, we're meant to notice the unfortunate class overtones of the rationalist country squire and the  superstitious peasants. But the film's theme, at heart, is the human cost of high infant mortality, which may have been a fact of life a hundred years ago it still must have absolutely destroyed people.

This film is really about the imagery, though; the creepy dolls, the revealed writing in blood behind the wallpaper, the sudden shocks and the innate horrors of Victoriana. It's true horror; in this modern world of "horror" films where the spectacle of gore overshadows true suspense and shock, this is the real deal, brought right up to date and more than worthy of the Hammer name.

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