Tuesday, March 1, 2016

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989)



THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989)

Director: Herbert Wise
Writer: Nigel Kneale

Starring: Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, Pauline Moran

Okay, so I absolutely loved the 2012 adaptation of The Woman in Black (yes, the one with Harry Potter). When I discovered that there had been an earlier adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel I put it right on my To Watch list. It would be a few years before I got around to watching it, but thankfully some kind soul uploaded it to YouTube. Oh, thank you Cinema Gods! Yes, you are surely smiling down upon me. Right?
     RIGHT!?
     After Mrs. Drablow (Pauline Moran) kicks the bucket, Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins), a young solicitor, is sent by his firm to settle the estate. Upon arriving in the seaside town of Crythin, Kidd finds the townsfolk reluctant to discuss the old widow or Eel Marsh House. Once at the house, Kidd begins seeing a woman in black lingering around the grounds like a fart. Who is this woman? Is she some crazed loon? Or could she be the vengeful ghost of Mrs. Drablow?
     Despite my penchant for fine splatter, gritty exploitation of the lowest denominator and extreme horror, I am perfectly capable of enjoying a slow-moving and atmospheric ghost story (i.e., The Changeling)—if done well, that is. Sadly, The Woman in Black isn’t. In fact, it’s boring as shit. In fact, I shut it off several times to go do other things, and it took me two days to finish the damn thing. Despite having nice cinematography, the film lacks the atmosphere necessary to fill viewers with a sense of dread and foreboding. And having a setting that’s fairly bland doesn’t help. Seriously, Eel Marsh House doesn’t look threatening or imposing in the slightest. Just an average house propped up on a patch of land. Yawn.
     Tension and chills are also out to lunch. I’m sorry, but having a bit of silence punctuated by a sudden noise doesn’t generate tension or creepiness. It might make you jump, but that’s about it. On the same note, having a character act scared while hearing voices doesn’t do the job either.
     And is it just me, or does the Woman in Black look more like a middle-aged woman desperate for sleep after an all-weekend bender as opposed to a vengeful spirit? Putting a bit of makeup around one’s eyes does not create the image of a spirit, just a spirit of laziness and a dead imagination. There is only one scene in which the Woman in Black comes off as creepy—but it also happens to be an extremely corny scene which basically negates the creep factor.
     But the icing on the cake comes in the form of the acting and characters. Everyone here seems apathetic which results in bland characters. It’s almost as if no one could even be bothered to try. Sure, horror flicks aren’t known for having the greatest acting in the world, but I’d take bad acting over apathetic acting any day because at least you know the bad actors are trying, which cannot be said for the corpses shifting about the sets here. Slow-burns like this need actors who care about the roles and material; otherwise, the viewers wind up emotionally detached from any and all goings-on—which is exactly what happens here. I found myself not giving half a shit about what was going on, not caring about the characters, not caring about the outcome. In short, not caring at all.
     All said, The Woman in Black is a huge misfire and stands as a firm reminder as to why I don’t watch television. With none of the ingredients that make a successful ghost story, what we’re left with is a dish best tossed to the dog—so they can ignore it and go eat some grass instead. Don’t waste your time or energy watching this bland affair. Go watch the 2012 adaptation instead. You can thank me later.

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