I watched The Woman in Black last night, a film based on the book of the same name by Susan Hill. It was very nice to see an old-style gothic horror film again, one that relied in the main on atmosphere and crescendos of dread for chills instead of the gore and brutalism in most modern horror films.
The Woman in Black is genuinely creepy at times, and well acted. The film centers almost entirely on Daniel Radcliffe’s character, Arthur Kipps, reducing almost every other part to a minor supporting role. The exception is Sam Daily, played by Ciaran Hinds, who brings real pathos to what is still a fairly small role. The other main character is the setting, a deeply troubled and isolated English coastal village, populated by the usual unwelcoming, hostile or tragic figures that populate such places in gothic horrors.
For all its qualities, the ending spoiled the film. Despite striving mightily, risking his life and doing all he ca – including everything that should be done – the dreadful ghost is implacable and cannot be defeated. All Arthur Kipps achieves nothing is the inevitable destruction of himself and his family, the dreadful events in the village continue unabated. Exactly like Indiana Jones in his first film, he has achieved nothing and has been unable to affect the outcome.
The film does what it does perfectly, which is Victorian gothic melodrama. I guess I’m just not cut out for a narrative arc where bliss in heaven is considered adequate compensation for a dreadful life.