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May 22, 2012

On DVD/Blu-ray – The Woman in Black (2012)


Hammer Films, the company that brought us classics such as The Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) brings us this gorgeously shot, well acted, and thoroughly creepy film about a young widower who discovers that the vengeful ghost of a woman is causing the mysterious suicides of children in an English village.

Based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill and a made-for-TV adaptation from 1989*, The Woman in Black tells the tale of a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who travels to a small village in order to settle the estate of a recently deceased widow. His presence in the town is unwelcome, as expected in a horror film, but he goes on with his business as usual. He also sees the ghost of the widow on several occasions. Kipps’ eventual discovery of the truth is slow churning but always interesting.

The purpose of a film like this is to deliver astonishing art direction and masterful sound engineering while scaring the pants off the audience. The house is a masterpiece of art direction. The jump scare mechanic is utilized all too frequently, also as expected in a horror film, but the performances by Radcliffe (you’d never know from the Harry Potter films alone that he can deliver a good performance with terrific conviction) and co-star Ciarán Hinds are terrific.

If Hammer had simply taken out the jump scares this would have been a tremendous film because jump scares are not their forte. They have always delivered well acted and well shot tales of grotesqueries, with outstanding atmosphere, and it always worked. Nevertheless, The Woman in Black is so well made and acted that it’s absolutely worth watching, preferably in the dark and with the sound turned up nice and loud.

The Blu-ray edition contains an audio commentary track, Inside the Perfect Thriller: Making The Woman in Black, No fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, Previous, and a UV Digital Copy.

*The differences between the 1989 and 2012 versions are quite vast. In the 1989 version, Kipps isn’t widowed, the house is burnt down at the end of the film, and the resolution is remarkably different. Also, it doesn’t contain jump scares. It’s far less atmospheric than the 2012 version and as a result is slightly less satisfying, but is still another good version of the story that should be watched.

Other new releases this week: Certified Copy, Perfect Sense, Red Tails, The Secret World of Arrietty, This Means War