Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

My three favorite genres in film and literature are, from greatest to third greatest (because I hate to say "least"), fantasy, science fiction, and horror. This film is the latter, so I had dearly hoped it would not disappoint.

But first, let me say this: The Woman in Black, so far as I know, is my first Daniel Radcliffe movie other than the Harry Potter franchise. I know he does, or at least did - I hope he still does - live theatre back in the UK, such as David Copperfield and Equus, as well as the American Broadway hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I saw none of these; I had not the fortune. So he's a great actor. If I haven't established that opinion already, I do it now in a frank manner. Acting aside, this movie had loads of "jump" scares. And I didn't like it.

I loved it. Even if it did have a lot of loud and startling moments, it was very creepy on both literally morbid and deeply mental levels. The plot, to put it in my own "pitch" form for brevity, is "A lawyer must travel to an old cursed house for business purposes." There's the whole not-believing-it factor, which one could call cliche; but then I'd permit one to call human main characters cliche. I think it's perfectly realistic to be skeptical in this sort of situation. The moments with the titular Woman in Black honestly chilled me to a degree only a few other things have:

  • Dracula's moans of pain as Van Helsing stakes him off-screen in Dracula (1931)
  • Mina (Lucy in the book, for some reason they like to trade names in movies) coming to her father as a pale vampire ("Pa-pa?") in Dracula (1979)
  • Danny Glick floating outside Mark Petrie's window and tapping softly-yet-eerily to be let in (Salem's Lot [1979])
  • The ending to The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • The corpse of the evil queen (The Tenth Kingdom, 2000, but the same one who poisoned Snow White; TTK is a fairy-tale spin-off, and remember, I was nine when I saw this scene, so it might or might not still horrify me)
  • The greater part of everything in 1408 (2007)
  • The "dead" people in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
  • Voldemort, especially in Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
That may look like a lot, but I've seen many, many movies (although I still have so many to see) and I really don't spook very easily. But The Woman in Black was truly a very frightening experience. If you're up for that sort of thing, go see it! It's well worth the money in my opinion. And little Harry Potter is a grown-up now.... He's older than I, true, but I still watched him grow up through the HP movies. I think being scary is harder now than in past decades. Even I am not scared by most horror flicks, even if I love them. The Shining with Jack Nicholson comes to mind: creepy, and a great movie, but it didn't send me to bed with the light on, if you get my drift. I need to finish that book, and the Mick Garris remake.... Anyhow, there's a very precise art to being scary. You have to probe the mind, I think. Something along those lines. I've seen at least a couple of non-horror movies which I found unsettling: The Silence of the Lambs; Coraline; and Inception. Arguably the first two might be considered horror, but my point is that scary is harder now. I do wonder if vampires will ever be scary again: even if (WHEN) the fad wears down, it will still have existed. Pity - as you can probably surmise, I'm a vampire geek and a Dracula nerd. The same applies to originality in any genre: there are so many writers, and even with many writing the same thing - in fact this may be part or all of the cause and/or effect - it's hard to come up with a decently original idea. Trust me, I know it!

According to the amazing Cory Doctorow and the late, great Blake Snyder, nothing is one hundred percent new. Even if it seems that way, the core of the story is one of (ten?) formulas. I don't like Stephenie Meyer's books, but I must say she seems to have hit gold (even if Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992, had demonic romance in it). I love the Hunger Games Trilogy, but as I understand, Stephen King had already written The Running Man - I have yet to read or see that one, but it sounds similar. Now dystopias are the thing. I digress.

If you'll pardon my digressing a slight further, I must directly reprimand myself for these tangents, as I have an ACT soon and plan on taking the optional Writing portion. I seem to recall something about focus and clear sequential order of thoughts, as described in my preparation book. What an active hypocrite I might be here, even acknowledging it as I type!

The movie! It was great, but I do not recommend it for anyone who spooks easily or has medical conditions sensitive to sudden noise. If you enjoy a good spook, go for it! It's really brilliant.

Final grade: A

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