Whatever You Do…Don’t Watch It Alone!

I had high hopes for THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I never read the Susan Hill novel (released back in 1983). I didn’t even know there was a stage version until I started Googling around for this write-up. The film’s director (James Watkins) and screenwriter (Jane Goldman) have yet to blip on my cultural radar. That it’s been produced by Hammer Films should do something to the horror historian inside me, but…well…meh… Hammer has been defunct for years (their comeback film, LET ME IN, did a nice job Americanizing LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) and their primary output  – British horror movies – were never really my thing.

And on and on and on. It was kind of nice going into a movie cold (as cold as one can in this day and age of omnipresent, pressure-pounding media). The marketing campaign almost scared me away. Whatever you do…don’t see it alone! Serious. Sheez! Like most people don’t go to movies with friends and family. Weird. Who goes to the movies alone? They even pointed one of those night vision cameras on a (drugged) (no) test audience to capture the shrieks of terror throttling recoiling patrons. Like this is super, mega, blockbuster PARANORMAL ACTIVITY or something (take that how you like it)?


(Pretty titles help)

So then… Daniel Radcliffe is a good actor. You can chart his growth over those Potter films. He’s been working at the craft forever and it shows. He pulls it off and drags along an otherwise bad film, shaping the muck into something slightly better. Everything in THE WOMAN IN BLACK looks great. The period dress, the dark mansion, a twisting road that appears and disappears with the rolling tide, dead kids all over the place, creepy toys, ghost women (in black!) – it’s all good, but instead of working a dark magic, this wonderful atmosphere serves as nothing but window dressing to a host of pointless, ridiculous, stupid jump-scares.

The film is being reviewed favorably, it’s supporters calling it an old-fashioned, gothic, ghost story. I agree that THE WOMAN IN BLACK looks like an old-fashioned, gothic, ghost story, but its ratio of canned scares to disturbing, thought-provoking stuff is too uneven. It’s like an old-fashioned, gothic, ghost story dumbed down. It’s a shame because all of the elements needed to craft a spooky movie are here, they’re just not aligned properly.

Two films that remind of THE WOMAN IN BLACK – THE OTHERS and THE ORPHANAGE – actually do what BLACK is trying to do and they do it with so much more style. They are superior ghost stories. The productions are elegant. If you haven’t seen them I recommend you stay out of the theater, check them out, and then catch THE WOMAN IN BLACK on DVD or cable in the not-too-distant future.


One Response to “Whatever You Do…Don’t Watch It Alone!”

  1. here…

    […]Whatever You Do…Don’t Watch It Alone! « Michael Louis Calvillo Must Be Destroyed[…]…

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