The Woman In Black (1989) review

I have this little obsession with making sure that I do a little research into upcoming horror that interests me. In this day and age unfortunately that usually means watching the original movie. I’ve written about haunting stories before but this time we’re going into the realm of a TV movie for The Woman In Black. The BBC has a long and proud history of quality productions that sadly not always the easiest to come by. Thankfully we have places like the internet to help us out until things can be released properly.  This isn’t the first time in recent history that a film based on a made for TV horror gets a big fancy Hollywood release. A few months ago Guillermo del Toro’s Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark hit theatres and that was a made for TV movie from the 70’s.

So before the new Woman In Black remake spooks its way to theatres I wanted to share this wonderful little gem with all of you. The film was released for the ITV Network in 1989. It was based of the 1983 novel of the same name written by Susan Hill. Herbert Wise would handle the directing duties and it starred Adrian Rawlins.

The woman in Black opens up to a young man named Arthur Kipps who is sent out as a solicitor to a small town to attend the Funeral of Mrs. Alice Drablow. Drablow was an elderly widow who lived in this creepy old house that sits alone in a marsh surrounded by mist. The narrow ways lack of visibility makes it a notoriously dangerous spot. It becomes known to Kipps that people have lost their lives there before. During his stay he begins to see images of a woman in black. He comes across Mrs. Drablows recorded Journal that confirms that she too was plagued by the images of a woman.  It doesn’t take long before other suspicious activity in the house and even from the locals begins to unravel the bizarre mystery surrounding the Eel Marsh House.

I will start off by saying the movie has a very slow beginning . It just follows Kipps around as he prepares to leave for the town. I don’t know if it was the mood I was in or just the movie itself but the first thirty minutes I was checking the time. Of course I had plans to stick with it and I’m glad I did. In the gothic style of haunting stories this one is nothing particularly different. Strange activity becomes more frequent over time and it serves to help unravel the mystery of the house itself. A lot of the tension comes from the wonderful musical score by Rachael Portman that really amplifies Kipps frantic nature. Seriously the guy could win an award for freaking out if they gave out awards for that sort of thing.

Although there are a lot of tense moments I would honestly say there is only one big scare. It relies on you getting accustom to how the movie presents the ghosts and supernatural activity and then throwing something totally different in your face. It was effective to be sure and that’s saying a lot coming from me.

The last part of the movie I will talk about is the ending. I really don’t want to give too much away but I thought it really was a high point that brought the whole story full circle.

I think a few of the things I didn’t like were a couple of things were handled off camera. I understand this had probably more to do with cost than anything else but it would have been interesting if they had the budget or time.

The Woman in Black is a subdued ghost story that people should go into with patience. The ending pays off nicely but will probably do nothing for people who like a little bit more bang.

There’s no telling how the new film will measure up to the old one. I can tell you that it’s a well known story in the UK having been turned into a stage production that has run for twenty years. In the modern age we can defiantly count on more special effects and more obvious scares, which admittedly wouldn’t hurt. I’ll stay optimistic until opening day.

I recommend that anyone who is interested in a good ghost story check this one out. Just a word of warning, although it was released on DVD it’s out of print now and very hard to come by. If there are some good spots to find it don’t forget to comment and let people know! Until next time, thanks for reading!

"I'm the ghost of Dame Maggie Smith"

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