Why “Woman In Black” Was Horrifying (not in a good way)

Spoilers. Obviously.

Okay, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was actually expecting things from “Woman In Black.” Nothing big, I’m not talking Steven Moffat or early-Shyamalan level plot spins (SHUT UP I LOVED SHYAMALAN), but I wanted… something. A chilling twist, a couple images that would stick in my brain – even just one scene to justify a theatre trip (well, okay, mom paid, but still).

Loved the opening sequence, very creepy yet understated. I admit I have a weakness for the jumping-suicide element in horror movies, but this went even beyond the usual; quite unsettling, not too in-your-face, quiet in the right places.

I won’t go over the whole movie, since my irritation is mostly covered in the list below, but a couple things did strike me (outside of the aforementioned list).

First, well done on the dolls. There were a couple moments I was afraid they were going to pull a Chucky and kill the whole movie, but they were kept relatively low-key and stayed an atmosphere thing, which I appreciated. Side note – the moment where he’s walking along with the candle and the light makes it look like the monkeys’ eyes are following him was one of the most brilliant simple effects I’ve seen in a horror movie.

Okay, minor peeve during the movie: anyone notice a few of the wall-candles were not moving, at all? Clearly light bulbs, and I get that it’s safer that way, but it was bugging me.

I’m pretty sure the sound editing people had some sort of blackmail material on the rest of the crew, cause WOW did they go crazy. Sound editing is something the average viewer should not be noticing all through the friggin movie. Yeah, the music was quieter than usual, so the sounds should have been slightly more noticable, but not to that extent. It was just silly.

I’d like to know how a 10ish-year-old kid setting herself on FIRE doesn’t make an R rating. (Also, drinking lye sounds like one of the shittiest possible ways to go.)

The kid clawing out of the mud: solid image. Mud is classic horror movie, in some ways even more striking than a character covered in blood. Frankly I think they could’ve done more with the marsh than they did, although…

The scene in which Daniel Radcliffe has to swim through the marsh to find the kid’s body looked like the COOLEST EVER SCENE TO FILM. Seriously, if I was acting in a scene where I got to be covered in mud and still act all serious and tortured, I’d keep messing it up on purpose just so I could keep doing it. That must have been sooooooooooooo much fun.

The dog could’ve been a lot more useful than he was – dogs are universally seers in horror stories (just like ravens are harbingers of death – another symbol helpfully screamed in our faces by the writers!). Yeah, he barked a couple times, but step it up a bit, Lassie.

Reasons Why Daniel Radcliffe’s Son Was Definitely Dead the Whole Fucking Movie:

1. He sees the wife and son with about the same level of clarity. (The wife in the mirror in the beginning, and wandering throughout the movie.)

2. While he’s saying goodbye, the son and nanny are dressed in what looks like an intentional color-contrast to the rest of the world – everyone on the street is in gray, but they’re in whites and blues.

3. Kipps (Radcliffe) is clearly withdrawn and reclusive – unlikely to have friends around, so it’s possible no one would even notice a mental break.

4. When Kipps’ wife gives birth, she is the only one who makes a sound. The baby never cries; when it’s handed to the now-widowed Kipps, its head is twisted a bit at an odd angle (I swear I’m not making this up) and it does not move. Not even a little. No sounds, no motions.

5. When Kipps is told about the woman (in black) whose affairs he’s fixing (I don’t remember when she died – anywhere from several months to several years ago), he asks if she had children. The man giving him the job (presumably the head of the law firm) gives him a searching look and says that her only son died young. There is a long silence and a zoom on Radcliffe’s face. At this point I was almost rolling my eyes at how hard they were pushing the C-L-E-A-R twist ending.

6. The children in the village are dropping like flies of their own apparent volition; the dead woman’s son had drowned in the bog; even Kipps’ ally in town had a dead child – it was thearcing theme of the movie.

7. Kipps makes a new friend (whose name shall hereby be “Friend”), who gives him a place to stay. Friend requests that Kipps not bring up children over dinner, because his wife is still mourning the loss of their child. During dinner, the wife requests to bring “the twins” in, who turn out to be two ridiculously adorable chihuahuas. Now, I thought that was a heavy-handed clue by itself: the mourning parent shifting his/her love to something other than the child after his death. But oh no. It got heavier.

8. During dinner, Friend’s wife starts talking about her son, saying he loved to draw. “Actually… he still does.” Then she goes all eye-rolly and starts carving a child-like picture into the table, and has to be sedated. It’s clear the husband and staff are used to this. At THIS point, I felt they were going WAY too hard at this.

9. The scene that convinces me there must have been an alternate ending: that night, Kipps pulls out a drawing his son gave him at the beginning of the movie, setting it next to the image scratched in the tabletop, and clearly compares the two. This surprised me only because they almost never figure it out – the unreliable first-person narration is almostalways revealed by an outside observer. But no, I thought for sure he had it now. He was seeing the similarities, maybe even remembering the real events surrounding his family’s death. But then, no, we blithely skip on to the next day. So much for that, I thought, but they’re clearly planting the idea. Actually, they’re taking construction equipment and shoving the idea into the ground, watering it routinely every twelve hours, and feeding it Miracle Gro. They did not want that missed.

10. So now I figured the woman worked on a sort of Thestral principle – she could only be seen by someone who’d been through a specific tragedy, in this case, the death of one’s own child. It held perfectly with everything I’d seen so far: Kipps could see her, so could Friend, and most of the villagers were losing their own children by the hypnotism of the Woman (clearly an angry revenge, but perhaps also a plea for hearing). Many protagonists of similar horror stories have a particular empathy with the antagonistic spirit (I swear to god I’m sure I can find examples if anyone wants but I’m too lazy right now) – I was now just assuming their connection was the loss of their sons.

11. Kipps decides to reunite the body of the dead boy (left in the marsh) with the body of the mother. He seems oddly unbothered by the dead kid’s marshy rotted body, even for the 19th century. I started getting a little concerned he’d kept his own son’s corpse, “Family” (Masters of Horror)-style. (That’s the example that jumped to mind, although it’s a fairly common theme for horror movies.)

12. This is how the last 5-10 minutes should have gone: Kipps reaches the train station with Friend, happy to meet up with Nanny and Son. He hugs Son and talks to Nanny, and Friend looks around the doorway only to stare in horror as he sees Kipps fondly greeting empty air. He recognizes his wife’s behavior, sadly and cautiously walks over to Kipps, and asks him to try to remember the circumstances surrounding the son’s birth, maybe gently hinting at the truth. Kipps remembers, suddenly realizes what he’s been denying for years, flashback showing the parts the one in the beginning left out (the doctors proclaiming the boy stillborn, Kipps holding the dead baby, double funeral), and he is all horrified and stuff. Clutching the son’s drawing he now remembers creating, he stumbles out in front of the incoming train (perhaps a bit of ambiguity as to whether or not it was intentional). His tombstone is added next to his wife and son’s, but his spirit returns to the old house and the Woman, who he now realizes is one of the few people who understands his pain.



2 thoughts on “Why “Woman In Black” Was Horrifying (not in a good way)

  1. Vern at GoUpIt February 5, 2012 / 12:42 AM


    your writing is awesome. I can’t dissect a story like that – you obviously have a gift for it.

    How you could really take this up a notch is to start doing video reviews of movies!!!!!! it could be awesome…. not sure you’re into it or not – but, if you practice in front of the camera a lot – you’ll come to see it as nothing at all. shoot a couple hundred different videos of you talking – on the iphone – whatever, and see how it works. self-consciousness goes out the window.

    forget university – review books and movies – and make it funny like you do.


  2. L February 5, 2012 / 9:15 AM

    Step it up a bit, Lassie–

    Did you hear me HOWLING down here with laughter?

    Loved the review– Keep doing it.

    (the tomb was where the lady made the picture like Radcliffe’s son– not on the table. The table had a person hanging.)

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