Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: "The Woman in Black" a dark ghost story

"The Woman in Black" is a gothic ghost story in the truest sense: Old abandoned spooky house, lots of dark corridors and an evil family secret buried years ago. The movie opens with heart-broken widower Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) grieving for his beloved wife who died four years ago in childbirth. Kipps buries himself in work and grief to the detriment of his son whom he rarely spends time with. Kipps is sent on a mission by his boss to collect papers from a secluded country estate where the last survivor, an elderly widow, died leaving no heirs.

What follows is a creepy excursion to a mansion, known as the Marsh House, which is situated in a lonely mist-covered swamp. The mansion is a character in itself filled with bizarre and scary knick knacks such as taxidermy monkeys, freaky dolls and mechanical windup toys that clatter and bounce in the middle of the night.

Radcliffe gives a solid and commanding performance as the distraught and lost Arthur Kipps. Anyone who believes Radcliffe can only play Harry Potter should watch "The Woman in Black." This movie is almost a one-man show with Radcliffe spending long periods of time at the abandoned mansion facing shrieking ghosts and countless things that go bump in the night.

Movie spoilers follow. Stop here if you want to be surprised.
After Kipps sees a woman veiled in black in the family cemetery, children start to die horrifically. One girl poisons herself with lye. Another girl burns herself to death. Each time the Woman in Black shows herself, children go into a trance and commit suicide. Kipps discovers among the old papers left in the mansion that the family of the Marsh House adopted a boy who was taken from his insane mother. After the boy drowns in a swamp, the insane mother kills herself and vows to kill the rest of the town's children.

In perhaps the most exciting part of "The Lady in Black," Kipps dives into the swampy mud and tries to retrieve the body of the drowned boy, whose corpse was never was recovered. Kipps hopes if the boy and the insane mother are reunited the murderous Woman in Black will be at rest.

Serious spoilers about the ending:
What follows is surprising as it is disappointing. It turns out the Woman in Black remains firm in her vengeance and continues to kill. The final death count has a brutal twist. The Woman in Black lures Kipps' own boy out on to the railroad track as an oncoming train rushes toward him. Kipps races out on to the track to save him. When Kipp opens his eyes, his dead wife is waiting for him on the track. The now deceased Kipps and the spirit of his dead his four-year-old son follow Mrs. Kipps into the afterlife.

The audience's reaction in the theater was somber and obviously unhappy with the ending. Although the ending was a surprise, to have Kipps go through so much trouble to stop the murderous ghost only to be killed (along with his four-year old son) by the Woman in Black seems pointless and cruel.

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