In “The Lady in Black,” as it was in “The Stepford Wives,” the importance of being earnest — no matter how bizarre the scene — is clear
Is death ever kind?
Oh, I'm not speaking of mercy killing. I mean are there benevolent ghosts who do unto others as they would have others do onto them? Does a ghost always view death as deadly or is it kinder on the other side?
"The Woman in Black" is based on Susan Hill's haunting novel from a screenplay by Jane Goldman. It is the story of a tormented ghost and all of those who see her and her suffering. Whenever someone sees "The Woman in Black," something horrible happens to this person or this person's family.
Will this lawyer Arthur Kipps( Daniel Radcliffe) survive his visit to the foreboding estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow? While Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) has never looked more handsome and dapper and has made the leap to leading man with grace sans Harry Potter's wand, one wonders what on earth would possess him to enter this haunted home.
Home? It is a castle on an island surrounded by water on all sides and one can only enter when the tide it right. It reminded me of Mont Saint Michel in France though the movie was filmed in Sweden and the U.K.
Well, no one in his right mind would have the courage to go to this frightening place to do legal work. I'd change professions sooner than walk up its staircase. But Daniel Radcliffe is such a handsome and well-dressed star that nothing could ever happen to him or to his family. After all, he has left his little boy in the city and will meet him in three days — after he completes his legal paper work dealing with the deceased Drablow's estate.
James Watkins' direction builds suspense steadily though there were a few moments where it lagged. There are a few too many shots of the "Woman in Black" peering out of windows and a few too many shots of a corridor to indicate terror, but the cinematography of Tim Maurice-Jones as well as the sets and the lighting are spectacular.
The highlight of the film is the talented Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dailey who is married to Clarian Danes (Sam Dailey). They have lost their child due to the Gothic spell of "The Woman in Black" and Mrs. Dailey has been mentally unstable ever since.
This scene reminded me of when I played a Stepford wife and had been murdered by the men of Stepford. I could not allow the audience to know I was dead because this would give away the plot. I had to act normal while allowing the dialogue to indicate my robot -like state. I had to recite absurd dialogue with an honest intention.
In one scene, Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss — who are not dead-yet — come to my kitchen to ask me to join the Woman's Consciousness Raising Group of the Community of Stepford. I say, "I'm too busy with cooking and all. I know I shouldn't say this, but I just love my brownies."
My dialogue gives a clue to the audience that I am not normal. If I had not delivered my absurd dialogue sincerely, I would be indicating to the audience that I was dead — or was a machine — and destroy the mounting suspense and the terrifying conclusion of the film.
In "The Woman in Black," Mrs. Dailey (McTeer) has two toy white Chihuahuas seated next to her in high chairs with bibs while she feeds them their favorite chow with silver spoons at their lavish dinner table. Later she rocks the doggies to sleep in their crib-like bassinet.
If McTeer hadn't played these scenes earnestly and with heartfelt loss, she would be ludicrous and destroy the mounting terror. This was also my direction by Bryan Forbes as
a Stepford wife, as seen by my all-American healthy smile when in fact I am dead.
So when I watched the nimble direction of James Watkins in "The Woman in Black" and the stellar acting of McTeer, I was reminded of my direction as a Stepford wife. McTeer's acting has subtlety and adds to the suspense without being heavy-handed. Rather, the shot of the two doggies in their one crib being rocked to sleep adds the creepy spine-tingling element that makes you wonder what will happen next? What odd ball, original attempt to frighten the audience will Watkins pull?
And he does not stop with a pair of twin Chihuahuas rocking in their crib. He goes on and on and on until the sinister, or happy, conclusion. That is your choice.
This Hammer Film's production is a participatory Gothic horror film at its finest.