The Woman in Black (2012)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

British authors have always loved ghost stories. They are inexpressively connected to England. In the early 1980's, another ghost story was added to the pile, and now comes to life...

It has been seven years since Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) lost his wife in childbirth. Their son has grown into a beautiful little boy, but that cannot fill the ache in his heart. His despondency has caused him to retreat from the world, a situation his employers at the law firm despair of. They threaten to let him go if he cannot clear up the matter of a recent death at an old country house. The papers are in disarray and Arthur must put them in order so the house can be sold.

Kissing his son and reassuring him that they will see one another by the end of the week, Arthur gets on a train. The journey is made somewhat less tedious by the conversation of a local, Mr. Daily (Ciaran Hinds), but he meets with a cold reception in the small seaside village. Everyone is very mysterious about the house and its deaths. They keep their children indoors, and cannot wait to see the back of him. But it isn't until he visits the house and sees the curious, sinister specter of a woman that he starts to understand... the locals believe the house is haunted, and each time the Woman in Black is seen, a child soon dies. It becomes more and more dangerous as Arthur unravels the mystery of the sinister figure in the marshland house.

Ghost stories are not my thing. They give me the creeps, and not in a way I'd like to repeat. So my feelings about this one are mixed. From a purely writing and artistic perspective, this movie is magnificent. It builds suspense quietly and then unleashes visual horrors on a nervous audience. The cast is terrific... Radcliffe proves that he can tackle far more adult, period pieces than his famous wizard counterpart. Janet McTeer turns up as the tormented wife of Mr. Daily, suffering from visitations from her dead son. The costuming, musical score, and setting are marvelous... it blends into a chilling state of events that range from doors that open and close by themselves to  the shocking conclusion that is both beautiful and tragic. I'm also happy to say that the movie can stand on its own two feet -- it doesn't need its famous lead to succeed, although it is a joy to have him there. It's the perfect ghostly horror film...

... and that means it may be problematic for Christian audiences. Ghosts appear and disappear, most of them in frightening forms that mean some harm. On two occasions, a ghost takes possession of a woman and channels through her -- once, we hear his voice in hers. Such haunting stuff as a woman hanging from the rafters, a ghoulish face passing through thin air, and a dark form inspiring children to horrific deaths (such as drinking lye or setting themselves on fire) resonate long after the film has ended -- as does the final shot. There is not much content... no profanity, no sensuality, just creepy stuff -- including ghosts emerging from the mire, the body of a dead child turning up half decomposed, and ghost children wandering the garden. The whole atmosphere is one of terror blended with supernatural events. If you are spiritually sensitive to such things, it might be best to stay away.

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