"The Woman in Black" (2012)

The Woman in Black (2012)
Directed by: James Watkins
Running time: 95 minutes

Now Showing this week is The Woman in Black, directed by James Watkins and based upon the 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill of the same name. The film tells the story of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) who is a widower father of a four year old boy in the late 1800s to early 1900s (the film isn’t specific as to the era, all I know is that cars are a relatively new thing!). Kipps is a lawyer who has been tasked to leave his son in London and travel to a country England town to settle the affairs of a deceased woman who owned a mansion. Kipps agrees, as he is told he will be fired if he doesn’t, and arranges for his son to be brought to him in the town in a few days. The town has recently been suffering a few unexplainable child deaths and all of the townsfolk are afraid of this huge mansion that is isolated from the town. That mansion also happens to be the mansion that Kipps must go to to get cracking on that mountain of paperwork the previous owner left behind. But in the shadows of the mansion, there is something stirring, something ready to kill!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, The Woman in Black sounds like a fairly stock standard horror movie. It’s dark, set in an isolated location and involves young children (who, let’s face it, are down right creepy!). Another convention of the stock standard horror movie that The Woman in Black follows, sadly, is that it has a pretty bad storyline and weak characters. Radcliffe as the widower lawyer is in no way bad, but I just struggled to believe the fact that he could be a widower or that he has a four year old son. This is probably due to the fact that I am aware that Mr. Radcliffe is only three months older than myself (I am twenty-two) so I just thought he was too young for the character. Everyone else in the film was alright, they played their parts well. But they were the usual suspects: the sceptic on ghosts, the “crazy” person who believes in them, the angry townsfolk etc.

As for the storyline, it just felt like the filmmakers (or maybe this is the novelist’s fault!) couldn’t think of good enough reasons for Kipps to be in scary situations. The first time is fair enough; he had to go to the mansion to look at all that paperwork. But some fairly creepy stuff happens in there, and he leaves back to the town. But later, he decides that he has to go back and rejects the offer to be brought back before the nightly tide traps him there. Why? He really has to get that paperwork done and ghostly women be damned! It just felt weak.

However, once scary things were going on I must say that I was pretty terrified. Though I am a self proclaimed sissy, I doubt anyone could deny that the mansion in which most of the horror takes place has a lot of atmosphere surrounding it. One never felt relaxed during the mansion sequences as the horror never stops! There were never any rest periods, the tension just kept building and building until finally something scary would happen and then the suspense would just sky rocket from their on in! While most of the jumps would come from the film being really quiet and suddenly something loud jumped out (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!), there were some excellently executed moments of unexpected and not sudden but spine chilling stuff that made the whole experience seem worth it. I love a jump as much as the next man, but I do truly love something that isn’t so much jumpy but a sudden realisation and it suddenly changes your perception of the scene. The Woman in Black had plenty of those, and they were very welcomed.

In conclusion, I did really enjoy watching this film, but I must say that this is only because I really enjoy feeling immersed in the atmosphere of a film. But the storyline and characters were nothing special and the conclusion of the film was a rather unsatisfying middle finger to the audience that rendered all the proceeding events moot. If you like a good scare, this might be worth a look; but don’t come looking for a walloping good story.

See you next time!

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"Dark Shadows" (2012)

Dark Shadows (2012)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Running time: 113 minutes

Anyone who knows me personally will probably know that I am not a huge fan of Tim Burton. My main beef with him is mainly that whenever I hear of a Tim Burton film being made it can usually be described using the following phrase: “it’s [insert book/film/comic here] only with the brightness and contrast turned way down!” And while this has been known to work for him (Batman (1989)), it has also been known to just be terrible and boring (Alice in Wonderland (2010), Batman Returns (1992)). And at other times he seems to have not messed with anything at all and done a straight up adaptation and it has been just super (Big Fish (2003)). So when I heard that Dark Shadows was an adaptation of an old 1960s sitcom about a vampire, then you can imagine my ensuing sigh of contempt. The film, however, surprised me.

Now Showing this week is Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton as previously stated, and sees his partner in crime Johnny Depp playing Barnabas Collins, a man in the 1700s who after rejecting the affections of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green) has been cursed to be a vampire and locked in a coffin for all eternity. Around two hundred years later he is dug up and freed, and he learns that his descendants fishing business is going under due to competition headed by Angelique and vows to restore them to their former glory and best his nemesis.

I must say that I found the acting in this film to actually be pretty good. I can’t really say that there was a bad egg among the cast, and particularly Depp as the vampire was entertaining to watch. Depp seems to have taken what he learned from playing Jack Sparrow but combined it with a character who has a sense of nobility and “breeding” as they would have put it back in his day. And Eva Green is quite enjoyable as the witch Angelique. While her accent was a little strange at times, she just has a smile that is at face value sexy but on a closer look just devilish which suited the character really well. The supporting cast were all fine; Helena Bonham Carter (who still brings me much joy because I can say she is literally “doing the director”!) plays an interesting alcoholic therapist. Cliched, yes, but still interesting. The children of the family seem to have interesting back stories of their own but they are never really brought to fruition, which was disappointing. The main adults, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonny Lee Miller, were good as well, just mainly underused and background characters.

An aspect of this film I appreciated was that while it is basically a twist on the well known rival businesses comedy but with a vampire and a witch at the helm, the film did occasionally have moments of true terror and intimidation. Barnabas’ excavation leads into a creepy, shadow in the night slaughter of the men who found him which excellently established him as a monster. There was also a moment involving a person under a bed sheet that I have to admit was genuinely terrifying! So well done Mr. Burton on that front, your love of Gothic horror proved most useful here.

Now I come to the part of the review I’ve been dreading because for the last couple of days I have not known how I was going to describe this next section. I’ll start off by just outright saying it and then we’ll see how I go. Dark Shadows was a really enjoyable rival business, supernatural, “out of his time” comedy, right up until the final section of the film. The reason I didn’t like the final section of the film was (here goes…) because it was when the film suddenly became all “Tim Burton-ey”.

The film suddenly became far more surreal than it had already been; it suddenly involved inanimate objects coming to life, and some introductions to some new kinds of monsters that were completely out of left field and never actually explained. Basically what I mean by “Tim Burton-ey” is that the movie all of a sudden became too weird and very anti-climactic. My girlfriend and I were both in agreement in that we both sudden thought “what the heck is with this?!” at exactly the same moment just before the finale began.

But well done Tim Burton, you defied my expectations of this film and gave me a funny experience with a good vampire, a devilish witch and a fantastic running gag about Alice Cooper. And while you may have succumbed to some strange desires at the end, I still enjoyed the film. Until next time…

The rest of you, see you next time!