FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Oct 10, 2007

Day 10- "Did she see you?"

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to include The Woman in Black (1989) on my Willies List because it's a made for (British) TV film. Here at Final Girl, however, I can do whatever I want...and what I want is to tell you about The Woman in Black, for she's indeed a Willies runner-up.

The film, based on the book by Susan Hill, is set in the early 20th century and concerns the good-hearted young solicitor and family man Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins). He's sent to settle the Drablow Estate after the last of the Drablows passes on.

At the elderly Mrs Drablow's funeral, Arthur is surprised to find a fellow mourner, for Mrs Drablow was rumored to be a rather solitary old broad. Nevertheless, a mysterious woman in black keeps to herself in both the church and the cemetery and manages to creep Arthur out sufficiently.


After the funeral (and despite local advice against it), Arthur heads to Marsh House- a lonely manor that's only accessible during low tide, as one must use a causeway across the marsh to reach it.

Before long, Arthur finds himself haunted by the same woman in black. She appears in the dilapidated cemetery behind the old house, and the poor fellow grows increasingly fearful as there are noises and screams coming from the foggy marshlands. He slowly pieces together the sad story of the house and the woman he's been seeing as he reads Mrs Drablow's papers and listens to her cool old-timey audio diary. It seems that Arthur isn't the only one who's been haunted by the spectre as Mrs Drablow relates tales of late-night encounters with the woman in black: "She has become wicked..."

I'd read numerous accounts of this film, about how terrifying it is; I managed to track down a copy some time ago, and I was both excited to see it and prepared to be let down. Thankfully, I wasn't let down in the slightest: this is one scary movie, definitely worth searching out (it's currently out of print with no release date in sight). It's a superlative ghost story, plain and simple- there's an old, creaky, isolated house...there are voices and noises both inside the house and out...there's unreliable electricity...and a cranky spirit you don't want to make eye contact with.

I love ghost stories...I love love love them, and I find that supernatural horror tends to frighten me the most. The Woman in Black is no exception. Apparently there's a stage version as well, and it's even better than the film. Now if I can just track down tickets to that...

20 comments:

The Retropolitan said...

I watched this a few months ago, and didn't find it all that scary. Except that part near the end, in the bed. YOU KNOW

Also, have you seen "Ghostwatch"?

Theron said...

"I love ghost stories...I love love love them, and I find that supernatural horror tends to frighten me the most."

Amen, sister. But they don't make these kinda flicks anymore, dammit. These days, I'd file most of the "horror" movies under "thrillers." A crazy guy with a knife = Thriller. A ghost with a knife = Horror.

Maybe it's just me...

Bryan's workshop blog said...

I really liked the movie. I read the novel first, and found it creepy. The movie did a fine job.

Very, very sad, too.

Reminded me of Edith Wharton's fine ghost story, "Afterward."

A. said...

I haven't seen this one, but I agree that the old-fashioned ghost stories are scariest. "The Others" made me jumpy. But the Straub adaptation "Ghost Story" also freaked me out so much when I was a kid that I get residual shivers watching it now--even though it's a little hackneyed.

jason said...

I haven't seen this, but I love the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas series from the late 60s and early 70s, especially 'Warning to the Curious' and 'The Signalman.' The did a new one last year, but I haven't seen it, and I'm a bit wary, what with the BBC's recent trend of tarting up all their costume dramas in jumpcuts and shaky handheld camerawork in an effort to prove to the youth market that they're not 'stuffy.' I want stuffy, dammit. I want cheap video indoors and grainy film outdoors. I want light trails and muffled sound and weird music.

God, I'm old.

Richard Harland Smith said...

I caught the cheesy, barnstorming but often effective THE WOMAN IN BLACK as a stage play in London on September 10, 2001. The next day I boarded a plane bound for the States and found out what real horror was.

Bill Walsh said...

Apparently there's a stage version as well, and it's even better than the film. Now if I can just track down tickets to that...

Hey, kids, let's put on a show!

Uncle Mike said...

Another UK movie that gave me the absolute creeps was The Nanny, starring Bette Davis.

I watched it as a kid from behind my couch.

Stacie Ponder said...

"Also, have you seen "Ghostwatch"?"

I have not! At your mention, though, I just did a wee bit of research and I've decided that I MUST see it!!

Same goes for "The Nanny", another film I'd never heard of before two seconds ago. Man, Bette Davis got so scary in her late career. SWEET! Thanks, guys!

"Hey, kids, let's put on a show!"

Yes, would you please? I need live entertainment!

Amanda By Night said...

I adore this movie. It's really, REALLY creepy and there are parts that are damn near terrifying.

Like in the original Haunting (why do I have to say original?!?), there is one scene that is so scary I was almost UNABLE to scream.

That's powerful stuff.

I need to see this again. I'm totally onto a theory...

Great review!

The Retropolitan said...

"Ghostwatch" isn't exactly BRILLIANT, but it's fun enough to watch. Somehow, "Woman in Black" and "Ghostwatch" get lumped together in my head because they're Brit-horror TV stuff. Also, that one other ghost BBC special..."somethingsomething Tapes" or something. I need to look it up.

The Retropolitan said...

"The Stone Tape" by Nigel Kneale

cattleworks said...

Theron: what about a crazy guy with a GHOST KNIFE?

Sorry.

If anything, it makes a perfect weapon for killing, don't it?
The knife disappears into mist in the evidence lock-up... all the rest of the evidence sitting in there is totally freaked out.

Joanna said...

I saw the stage version in London a long time ago...very, very good storytelling that makes you use your imagination.

James said...

New reader here -- love your blog, Stacie!

I've never seen the movie (though I've always wanted to), but a few years ago my wife and I saw the stage version in a creepy little out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere theater nestled in the mountains of NC. What an unbelievably cool experience -- the "ghost" walked around the audience, appearing behind us more than once during the show, slowly moving in and out of the shadows.

It was awesome. Highly, HIGHLY recommended, if you ever get a chance to see a state adaptation of this tale.


J.N.
http://www.james-newman.com

James said...

. . . er, I mean to say STAGE adaptation.

Anyway -- check it out, if you ever get the chance.


J.N.
http://www.james-newman.com

AE said...

Stacie, thank you for alerting me to this movie! I wouldn't have thought the adaptation of such a perfect book would be any good. But all the changes to the plot really work well. And oh God, that scene in the bed... I may post again in the morning after a sleepless night and retract the thanks.

Anonymous said...

There is a very good theatrical adaptation of the novel. It has played in London for a good few years now, maybe ten plus, and regularly goes on tour around the UK. I have seen it twice. It uses a cast of two - maybe three ... - and rudimentary props. It is, therefore, an exercise in the power of theatre, suspension of disbelief &c &c. It works on atmosphere - really creepy - with a few well placed shocks to get the audience screaming then laughing in relief. There is a website for the play.

There is a good BBC Radio adaptation. I dare say Zombie Astronaut will have it.


Douglas fae Aiberdeen (just passing by)

Anonymous said...

Ah, I have just noticed the comments upthread, the lesson being always read thoroghly before posting.

I see some mention of The Stone Tapes. Yeah! Classic, and like so much Kneale, prescient (e.g. the 'digital crystal recording medium - "the entire of Wagner's Ring Cycle on a small crystal."

Douglas fae Aiberdeen

deadrodentyping said...

I would put in my Top 10 or 20 horror movies, easily. Other good ones in this series as well (The BBC Xmas Ghost Stories), as 'Anonymous' notes above, THE STONE TAPES is also very good.