The play of The Woman in Black is often studied by GCSE students to show them how thrilling theatre can be with a minimal cast and scenery. In many ways the film follows the same idea. James Watkins creates fear out of empty spaces and builds the tension to just the right level that audiences jump out of their seats, and occasionally nervously laugh with relief afterwards.
My memory of the play (I haven’t read the book) is hazy. I remember jumping a lot in that too and I know it is different, the shell of the plot is the same but it takes many different turns. Jane Goldman has dispatched of the narrator in her screenplay and the cast is considerably larger but between her and Watkins they make use of film as the medium of fear in a similar way to the use of theatrics in the stage version. This is made by the re-opened Hammer studios and is dark and gothic enough to live up to the studios reputation. You don’t see a lot but it is nonetheless terrifying. In fact this is possibly the most terrifying part of it. Its 12A certificate should not be taken as a sign this is light weight. It is full of things that make go bump in the night.
Of course other than “is it as good as the play” the main question people will ask about this is “didn’t you spend the whole time thinking – that’s Harry Potter.” I didn’t. In fact I briefly thought “ooh doesn’t he look grown up.” but quickly forgot about it. The character is very different to Potter (being a human and a grown up and all) which helps. He does brooding very well and seems to have chosen his first post Potter role well. I am sure some people will feel differently but I thought he was good. Also worth a mention is Janet Mcteer – she’s not in it much but her scenes are excellent. Reall Hammer horror stuff.
Go and see this if you want a good old fright without any blood and gore. Don’t go and see this if you are particularly nervous or if you are just going to laugh out loud throughout. We know you are really scared and the laughter is just a defence …