[Spoiler Alert! This is a film review, and will contain spoilers throughout.]
Well there, Daniel Radcliffe. I knew you had it in you. Granted, playing an Angsty Intrepid Protagonist Who Has Dealings With The Otherworldly And Dies (told ya there were spoilers) is nothing new for you, but you do it looking acceptably older than Pottersville.com.
A few random thoughts:
1. Ciaran Hinds stole the show. I don’t know what it is about this guy! Everything he is in, I either (a) love or (b) endure just to see him kick copious ass in every single scene he is in. The man can act. He’s got this slightly crazy look that would remind me of Jack Black a little if he weren’t British and so well-respected as an actor (feel free to debate your love and/or respect for JB in the comments). Anywho, in TWIB, Hinds brought the awesome to the point where I was much more worried about him in the scene where Harry – er, Arthur – is attempting to ‘return’ the drowned boy to his mother/ghost and Hinds is downstairs.
2. Atmosphere, check. Eel Marsh House – the name really does half the work here, points to Susan Hill, the author of the original novel. Plenty of dark shades, piles of documents, everyone looking dour and afraid. I was actually quite pleased that the filmmakers didn’t over-play the “it’s a dark and stormy night” card – yes, there was rain, even some thunder and lightning, but not all the damn time as in some horror flicks.
3. Scares. If there was one thing I expected coming into this film, it was that I would probably give at least a few suspenseful shrieks when something (someone?) jumped out of the corner at Harry – er, Arthur. But, in keeping with the play, the woman in black rarely moves very quickly, and she looks more like an actual, bodily presence than a shade. That, I think, is one of the scariest things about this ‘ghost story,’ – the corporeal nature of the ghost. Sure, she apparently possesses people and inanimate objects (plot hole, there – see below), but she is also just THERE. Definitely the scariest point is one where Arthur sees her looking out the window at him and goes upstairs to the room where that window is. The next shot is one of his face in the window, only to be joined by…
4. The woman herself! Yes, she merits a comment. Oddly I found myself hoping that she would turn out to be played by the same actress as Arthur’s dead wife, but perhaps that would have created too many plot loops to tie up in the course of a film. In her shrieking form, and indeed also as the last shot of the film she was unimpressive, feeling more like a amusement park ride fright in the first instance and suffering from bad animation in the second. But I feel that is so often the case with horror films – the baddie is really only scary when s/he’s lurking half-glimpsed in the shadows. As previously mentioned I was impressed with how bodily she seemed to be even throughout all that shady lurking.
5. Plot holes. If the woman was so corporeal, why couldn’t she dig up the cab and her dead son? Why do people stay living in that town with their children? (Plot device, Mr Frodo, plot device). How do Harry – er, Arthur, and his son escape from becoming ghostly minions to the woman like the other children? And [though this is more a complaint about a change from the novel/play than a plot hole] what happened to Alice Drablow’s back story? Without it her malice seems just a tad extreme.
And that’s todo from yours truly. As all good, fairly shallow ghost stories are better left without Deep Metaphysical Interpretation and just told around spooky campfires, I’ll leave this alone and try to think of a good way to adapt it for my next round of campfire storytelling. Here’s hoping that Daniel R continues to grow in his acting career, even if becomes one of those actors who ends up dying in most of his films (like this guy).