I had hoped our mystery review would be Babadook, but trying to find that thing playing even remotely nearby, save at a film festival, has proved problematic. Other countries have seen the general release of this low-budget, well-reviewed horror film; North Americans (at least, those of us not attending recent film festivals or horror conventions) will have to wait a little longer.

Instead, we have a double review for you, of the two film adaptations of Susan Hill’s contemporary gothic classic, “The Woman in Black.” The second saw release in 2012.

Cast and Crew

Director: James Watkins
Writers: Jane Goldman, from the novella by Susan Hill.

Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps
Ciarán Hinds as Sam Daily
Janet McTeer as Mrs. Elizabeth Daily
Sophie Stuckey as Stella Kipps
Misha Handley as Joseph Kipps
Jessica Raine as Nanny
Roger Allam as Mr. Bentley
Lucy May Barker as Nursemaid
Shaun Dooley as Fisher
Mary Stockley as Mrs. Fisher
Daniel Cerqueira as Keckwick
Alisa Khazanova as Mrs. Drablow
Ashley Foster as Nathaniel Drablow
Sidney Johnston as Nicholas Daily
Liz White as the Woman in Black

Full cast and crew details may be found at theimdb.

Available at Amazon

Premise

A young Edwardian solicitor and single father heads to a village to settle an elderly widow’s estate. He discovers a haunting that terrorizes the countryside. The Woman in Black takes children– and the protagonist’s son may be next.

High Point

The film features some disturbing imagery and ideas, but it eschews gore, and relies heavily on ambiance and elementary effects for most of its effect. The Woman in Black certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but it features a number of low-level frights, and I found it a welcome relief from the trends that dominate contemporary horror.

Low Point

You may want some wine to go with the ending; the film certainly supplies the cheese.

The Review

Originality: 1/6 It’s the second cinematic adaptation of a novella that has been adapted into several other forms, and which consciously used elements of the traditional gothic tale. This version makes several changes and develops its own ending, but gives the viewer nothing particularly original.

Effects: 5/6 The film features strong traditional, physical effects; its weakest visuals involve CGI. Both versions of the film feature a nightmarish nursery scene; as with nearly everything else, the 2014 version goes entirely over the top.

Story 4/6 The ghost has an interesting backstory. The plot mostly involves Radcliffe running scared around a spooky house, developing a bafflingly strange method of exorcism, and bringing the story to a conclusion that really concludes nothing.

A sequel will be out in 2015.

Acting: 5/6 Radcliffe is onscreen most of the time, often alone, and he puts forth a strong performance.

Production 6/6 The film features excellent production values. The 1989 one features a supernatural force invading a mundane, realistically-rendered backwater; the 2014 retelling presents a world as stylized as any Universal Monster Movie’s, and includes the fearful, hostile villagers.

Emotional Response: 4/6. The film works well as a gothic Haunted House walk, with some genuinely disturbing elements.

Overall: 5/6

In total, The Woman in Black receives 30/42.

Notes

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Arthur, gained fame as Harry Potter. Adrian Rawlins, who plays the same role in the 1989 version, appears in several of those films as Harry’s father, James.

October 2014 Halloween Reviews and Podcasts

Written Reviews:

Weekend of Oct 11: Friday the Thirteenth (1980)
Weekend of Oct 18: Zeiram (1991)
Weekend of Oct 25: The Woman in Black (1989) and The Woman in Black (2012)
Halloween Day: Ghost Hunt (2006)

Podcasts:

October 4th: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
October 11th: Predator (1987)
October 18th: The Terminator (1984)
October 25th: Ghostbusters (1984)
Halloween: Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Hilarious House of Frightenstein (1970s)