02 May 2012

The woman in black 1989/2012 review

Young lawyer Arthur Kidd is sent by his employer to some outback town to handle the selling of a house which belonged to an old widow. Once he arrives at location the townspeople keep asking him curious questions about his business and act weird when he tells them he is going up to the now abandoned building.

Before going to the house where he has been tasked with sorting out the paperwork he attends the funeral of the old widow, during and after the service Kidd sees this elderly woman all dressed in black standing a few yards away watching. This strikes him as odd because he had been told the old widow had no relatives or friends. Shortly thereafter there is an incident where a young girl is almost killed in an accident averted at last minute by Kidd himself. The villagers all spooked still refuse to give away any details so Kidd makes his way to the old secluded house – only reachable during low tide.

At the house he sees the woman dressed in black again, and this time her unnatural silence and demeanor scares him into a panicked flight and he locks himself up inside the house where he tries to perform his work. He is haunted by weird sounds, mainly those of a cart going down into the water and the screams of a woman and a child. At this point he realizes the village is haunted by this ghost in the shape of the woman in black so he tries to learn who she is by going over belongings inside the house.

The movie is rather good ghost story and has a pretty solid atmosphere. It doesn’t really include any jump scares but plays on one’s built up fears through tension and unease provided by the situation. The woman in black is also used sparsely, which is good. There is but one scene around the middle where the movie turns cheesy and dips for a scene. The reason being overexposing the ghost, she is far more frightening when just given short scenes and glimpses or when her presence is implied rather than shown.

Overall a satisfying and pretty decent ghost story. Not bad at all for a TV movie.



The most recent (2012) adaptation is not a complete remake - large chunks of the story have been changed. The changes make it a different experience compared to the older movie, the enjoyable aspect is that you can't predict what's going to happen.
The downside with the chances are a few oddities in the storyline.

It begins pretty much like the 1989 version, though this Arthur Kipps (changed name for some reason) is explained a lot more speedily. One scene where we seem him being suicidal and hallucinating about his dead wife, the next scene he gets his assignment at the law firm and third scene he says goodbye to his young son. This part of the movie goes by fast, but does not feel rushed. Condensed? Maybe. What we learn however is that due to his stress about his dead wife Kipps have not been able to work properly so the head of the law firm presses the issue that this will be Kipps is his final assignment should he fail. Perhaps the gravity in this version of the movie was underlined to make it more easily to accept that - in the end - Kipps is defying logic by staying at this scary as hell haunted house (reminds me of the Eddie Murphy standup about Haunted houses).

Daniel Radcliffe plays the young lawyer in this movie, and he has a 4 year old son. To be honest  he looks a bit too young for that, granted back in those days it was probably a lot more common. Other than that I think he does a good job in this movie, I'm no Harry Potter fan so I may not associate him with that character as much as fans of that series.

Anyways, Kipps arrives at this outback village where everyone is acting rather unfriendly, telling him to leave and hiding their children away when they see him. He manages to catch a ride to the Eel Marsh mansion where he is supposed to go over the papers of the deceased widow who used to live there - and if there is one silly thing in this movie it has to be this shot that looks like bad CGI of a large island far away towards which he is heading. It's far larger than the small island which only held the mansion and a few graves in the previous movie. The mansion however looks really damn good, the exterior looks spooky as hell and completely run down. The interiors is not a lot more inviting, it's also around this time early on during Kipps first visit that we start to see the woman in black - not directly and in full clarity - but at the far end of corridors or standing in a corner of a room. Really effective and unnerving, creating a great mood.

However, the director felt the need to throw in jump scares and there are quite a few - some are good, others are really worn out "animal jumping at you" cliché material. It's a bit sad since the 1989 movie did not rely on such things and still managed to be pretty scary.

There are a couple of really really good scenes in this movie that will just send chills down your spine when you see them. The story this time around explains a bit more details about the ghost which is quite interesting. It's also interesting towards the end when the movie goes in a completely different way from the 1989 version (granted there is one rather stupid scene involving the marsh).
The ending I felt was a lot more satisfying than the unintentionally funny ending of the 1989 version. 

The 2012 Woman in Black is neither better or worse as a whole - it's just different.



  1. Saw the second one but knew nothing about the first one, I enjoyed it but nothing special!

  2. I've only seen the 2012 version, and while there were a few good scares throughout, I found it disappointing and would probably score it a bit lower than you.

  3. The first film is, I don't know how else to put it, magnificent. Much, much better (more frightening, more oppressive, more etc.) than the new version, which is full of jump scares and it's way overdirected, robbing the story the neccessary atmosphere.

  4. While watching the 2012 version I found it difficult to feel that Arthur Kipps was in any danger because the ghost lady only went after children.

  5. Well that is kind of a spoiler, but you don't get to know that until later in the movie.


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