The Woman in Black


The Woman in Black
Directed by James Watkins
CBS Films
Opens February 3

A ghost story set in a never-clearly-defined era (the fashion suggests Victorian, the automobiles Edwardian), The Woman in Black aids in the reanimation of a cadaver: the long-moribund production company Hammer Films, rebooted in 2010. The movie, featuring Daniel Radcliffe's first leading role post–Harry Potter, also helps keep at least one career from meeting an early demise. If director James Watkins's second film, based on Susan Hill's 1983 novel, is about as scary as the haunted house your big cousins made in the basement, Radcliffe, as widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps, at least gives a moving portrayal of grief. Still inconsolable four years after his wife died during childbirth, Arthur, whose bereavement has been affecting his work, bids his son goodbye and takes a train from London to the northeastern marshlands of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of Mrs. Drablow, a recently deceased local eccentric. From the mysterious woman's window, he spots the wraith of the title; meanwhile, the bodies of pallid children keep piling up. The connection between the two is almost beside the point: The plot is subordinate to lengthy scenes of hollow-eyed Arthur wandering in silence through Drablow's manor, hearing the voices of the furious dead and seeming all too ready to join them.

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The early part of the Edwardian era would have had almost exactly the same fashions as the late part of the Victorian era. Edward only lived 9 years past his mother. When fashions became drastically different was with the onset of WWI in 1914. Saying that the fashions in this film are Victorian but the motor cars are Edwardian is like being surprised that people in 2012 are wearing fashions not terribly different than in 2002. The fashions in this film are late Victorian/Edwardian. They are certainly not middle or early Victorian, except in some of the flashbacks.


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