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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Double review: The Woman in Black and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Warning: may contain spoilers

Having read Susan Hill's ghost story The Woman In Black I was excited to see the recent movie remake starring Daniel Radcliffe. I was surprised to see that the movie was only rated 12a because the book was so frightening, and after watching the movie I can safely say that had I been under twelve I probably would have had to leave the cinema.

The film is beautiful despite (or perhaps because of) its chilling tale, with lots of brooding shots of the English countryside in the rain and plenty of Goth-friendly eye candy in the form of Mr. Radcliffe's lovely sideburns and dashing suit (I firmly believe that more men should dress in Edwardian-style suits, oh yes).

Wonderful costume...
Source: Google
Horror fans may be pleased to note that this film is brought to the big screen by none other than the infamous Hammer Horror, and I feel that they have mostly done justice to a classic story. At first I was a little annoyed to see that they had not kept more closely to the tale as Susan Hill wrote it, wherein the 'hero' Arthur Kipps (played by Radcliffe) is pestered for a festive fireside ghost story by his wife and children, but refuses to tell as he has been left almost scarred by his own experiences at Eel Marsh House, and writes down the story instead. But on reflection, doing away with this framing does the story good as it makes it relevant, present, rather than something that has already happened and the danger has passed (or so you think...).

I don't want to give too much away from either book or film but I will note that the ending is also slightly different than in the original novel.

In The Woman In Black, Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor mourning the recent death of his wife who is sent to sort the papers of the deceased Alice Drablow. Mrs. Drablow formerly resided in isolated Eel Marsh House, cut off from the mainland and nearest village by marsh and by tide. What Kipps does not know is that Eel Marsh House and the surrounding land (complete with woodland cemetery; cue many eerie shots of gravestones listing amidst the ivy) are haunted, and that every time the spectre - a woman in black - is seen, a child in the village dies. Horribly. The most spine-chilling part of the tale is, of course, the night Kipps finds himself spending in Eel Marsh House... alone.

I will be honest and say that I found this movie absolutely terrifying. It's highly suspenseful, designed for thrills and chills and as such there are many moments intended to make you jump (all of which hit their mark, I add) but there are some genuinely horrifying moments and images that have, rather unfortunately for my sleeping patterns, emblazoned themselves in my brain. The entire film is permeated by a sense of dread, and the director understands that things glimpsed in the shadows can be far more terrifying than to reveal all. A brilliant movie, and Radcliffe does well as mournful Kipps, but one of the scariest I've seen for a while.

(There is, by the way, another, older, movie of The Woman In Black, which I have not seen but which others have highly recommended.)

The other movie I saw this weekend was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 3D. Like the first Ghost Rider movie, it's not especially intelligent, nor does it bring anything particularly new to the world of Marvel comic movies, but for an hour-and-a-half of chases, special effects and Nicholas Cage on a motorbike it's harmless fun.
Source: Google
Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a daredevil biker who signed a contract in blood and became the devil's bounty hunter. Blaze now shares his body with a demon, known simply as the Rider, who is unleashed in the presence of evil and reduces it - and everyone close by, usually - to ashes. In this sequel, Blaze makes a deal to protect the son of the devil from being used by his father, in return for being released from the Rider. Unfortunately, he has to use the power of the demon to keep the devil's human offspring safe.

There are no great surprises in this movie and frankly it could have done with a considerably less cheesy script (there are one-liners that will make you wince). There are attempts at character development and we learn more about the mythology of the Rider, but it's a tad obvious and clumsy. The 3D is mostly irrelevant; all right for car chases in the mountains but otherwise adding nothing to the entertainment value of the film.

Cage's performance? I can never quite make up my mind whether Cage's kookiness is fun or irritating, but on the basis of this film I'll just heed my mother's advice: if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all.

The plot is all-too-obviously contrived, which would be all right if, like similar deliberately-trashy movies it was tongue-in-cheek, but sadly not. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this movie, but mainly because it provided the opportunity to switch off for a while whilst watching a flaming skeleton riding a motorbike. Fun but ultimately pointless.

12 comments:

Daniel_8964 said...

Interesting review you've written, Amy. It seems you had a excellent moviefest time. I may check out these films sometime when I get the DVDs and I hardly ever go to the cinema these days.I'm more of a introspective movie fan as I'm not a big fan of crowds in cinemas and I don't always have the money to see everything in the cinema.

Katherine :) said...

Oh the woman in black sounds good :) I've seen the play and can't wait to watch the movie ^_^ I want to read the book as well.

Anonymous said...

No spoilers then.

Alexandriaweb said...

Oooooh I wanna see The Woman In Black even more now :D

VictorianAndroid said...

I have not read the novel for The Woman in Black (now added to my list of things to read), but I went to see it for my birthday. I liked it as a whole but I felt like the ending could have been better. Still very good though.

Jessica said...

The Woman In Black is a very good movie. I'm looking forward of buying the Blu-Ray. I'm looking forward of buying the book too.

Nightwind said...

Although I want to see "The Woman in Black," I'm becoming inclined to read the book first. I hear that the book is really terrifying. I can always watch the movie later.

Claire said...

"I firmly believe that more men should dress in Edwardian-style suits, oh yes"
Yes, this. Very much so.

Goth Pocket said...

Oooh I wanna see The Woman in Black <3
and I saw Ghost Rider with my boyfriend last week and it was awesome!

Jessica said...

By the way, you did a very nice job writing movie reviews.

Jo said...

I also saw the Woman in Black, last week on Friday. Like you, I have read the book as well, and found it interesting that they decided to change some aspects of the original story. I loved the film, and I would say that two parts terrified me (especially the last 3 seconds of the film, if you know what I'm talking about!).

.:Melanie~Light:. said...

hmm...

I did enjoy the Woman in Black very much, since it was one of the classier and smarter horror films I have seen in a while. but was I the only one that had no scary images burned into my mind? I was tense the whole time (especially at the scene that one could call "a long night"), but never "scared." hmm...

except at the end I nearly screamed long fits of "NO!!!" in the theater. maybe that counts as "scared." XD

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