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).
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.
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.