Blu-ray Review The Woman in Black Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, May 27, 2012.

  1. Richard Gallagher

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    The Woman in Black is in many respects an old-fashioned gothic horror film, one which convincingly demonstrates that less can be more when it comes to evoking thrills and chills. The film is refreshing in its willingness to eschew gratuitous gore in favor of spooky atmosphere, ghostly apparitions, and things which go bump in the night. The film also is noteworthy because it provides evidence that there will be life after Harry Potter for actor Daniel Radcliffe.




    The Woman in Black

    Studio: Sony
    Year: 2012
    Rated: PG-13
    Program Length:  95 minutes                          
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
    Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

    The Program

    It's not natural to lose someone so young. But if we open the door to superstition, where does that lead?

    The Woman in Black is in many respects an old-fashioned gothic horror film, one which convincingly demonstrates that less can be more when it comes to evoking thrills and chills. The film is refreshing in its willingness to eschew gratuitous gore in favor of spooky atmosphere, ghostly apparitions, and things which go bump in the night. The film also is noteworthy because it provides evidence that there will be life after Harry Potter for actor Daniel Radcliffe.

    The story opens somewhere in England early in the 20th century. Three young girls are having a pretend tea party with their dolls. Suddenly they stop and stare at an unseen object and lay down their dolls and teacups. They stand up and walk to a panel of three windows at the end of the room. They open the windows, step up on the window sills, and jump to their deaths. Sometime later, in London, a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is packing for a trip. He is obviously distracted and notably places several past due bills in his briefcase. Arthur lives with his young son, Joseph (Misha Handley, who in real life is Daniel Radcliffe's godson) and a nanny. We learn that Arthur has been despondent for several years, ever since his wife died while giving birth to Joseph. His work has been suffering and he is in danger of losing his position with a law firm. He is given an opportunity to redeem himself when an elderly, reclusive client of the firm dies. Arthur is dispatched to Crythin Gifford, a remote village in the northeast, where he is to pore over the woman's papers and make sure that the firm has her final will and testament.

    During the long train ride Arthur makes the acquaintance of Samuel Daily (Ciarán Hinds), who as it turns out is the wealthiest man in Crythin Gifford. It is a cold and wet evening, and Daily offers to give Arthur a lift to the only hotel in town, the Gifford Arms. Upon his arrival at the hotel, Arthur is immediately greeted with hostility. The innkeeper claims to have no vacancies and no record of the reservation which Arthur's employer made for him. The innkeeper's wife takes note of the weather and persuades her husband to let Arthur stay in the attic for the night. When Arthur is shown to the room, we recognize it is the same attic from which the three young girls had jumped. The following morning Arthur goes to visit a local solicitor who is supposed to help him. However, the solicitor hands Arthur an envelope of papers and tells him to take the next train back to London. Arthur refuses and is forced to bribe one of the local men to take him by horse and wagon to Eel Marsh House, the estate of the deceased woman. It is on a remote island, surrounded by a marsh, and is accessible via a narrow causeway which can be traversed only at low tide. The once-stately grounds are now overrun with weeds and signs of neglect are everywhere. As Arthur searches the main house for papers and sits down to review them, he begins to sense that he is not alone.

    Arthur comes to learn that the residents of Crythin Gifford have experienced a series of tragedies involving children, which they believe are connected with a tragedy which occurred at Eel Marsh House many years earlier. The locals are unhappy with the fact that Arthur has come poking around and they fear that his inquiries will only lead to more trouble. Arthur begins to piece some facts together, while at the same time coming to believe that Eel Marsh House is haunted. Samuel Daily tries to assuage Arthur of his concerns, but when he invites the young lawyer over for dinner he asks him to not bring up the subject of children because he and Mrs. Daily (Janet McTeer) lost their only son in a drowning incident several years earlier. However, at dinner it is Mrs. Daily who begins to talk about her son, and she quickly descends into what appears to be a fit of madness.

    It would seem that if Arthur had any sense he would rush home at the first opportunity, but he needs to keep his job and in order to remain employed he has to complete his assignment. At the same time, he finds himself trying to unravel the mystery of what really happened at Eel Marsh House many years earlier. He also needs to find out if he is actually seeing and hearing things in and around the old house or if, in the words of Samuel Daily, "even the most rational mind can play tricks in the dark."

    The suspense and intensity of The Woman in Black are enhanced by the fact that the children of Crythin Gifford - who give off something of a Village of the Damned vibe - are the ones who are most at risk. The plot requires more than a little suspension of disbelief, the most obvious of which is the unanswered question of why anyone with children would continue to live in that village. On the other hand, the film benefits greatly from wonderfully evocative locations and superb set design. Daniel Radcliffe turns in a fine, understated performance as Arthur, and he is ably supported by Ciarán Hinds, whose character becomes something of a father figure for Arthur. Janet McTeer (a two-time Academy Award nominee) is impassioned and believable as the extremely troubled wife of Daily. The Woman in Black is deftly directed by James Watkins and is based upon a best-selling novel by Susan Hill. It was previously filmed as a made-for-television movie in the United Kingdom in 1989. The Woman in Black is appropriately rated PG-13 and viewers should be warned that it will scare the daylights out of young children if they are allowed to view it.

    The Video

    This 2.35:1 Blu-ray transfer lives up to the expectations that we have for Blu-rays produced by Sony. The images are highly detailed, with excellent sharpness and color fidelity. Much of the action takes place at night or in low light, but nothing is lost due to superb shadow detail. Black levels are solid and deep. The locations in England - principally Essex, Northamptonshire, and North Yorkshire - are exquisitely rendered. The interior of Eel Marsh House is beautifully designed and any sensible person would understandbly have second thoughts about going inside. The film appears to be accurately framed and the transfer is essentially free of flaws.

    The Audio

    The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is every bit as good as the video presentation. The audio beautifully reproduces every sound, and indeed it is the sound which is responsible for several of the film's most frightening moments. Dialogue is clear and understandable, and the occasional screams are blood-curdling. The soundtrack by composer Marco Beltrami is evocative and effectively sets the mood for each scene. There are several scenes in which the surround channels are responsible for making viewers jump out of their chairs.

    The Supplements

    The extras on this disc are not extensive but they are informative and entertaining. There is a worthwhile commentary track by director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman. One interesting aspect which they discuss is how the dialogue was modernized to make the film less a gothic period piece than the novel. Indeed, while watching the film it is difficult to ascertain exactly when it is taking place, although it certainly is pre-World War II.

    "Inside The Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black" is a ten-minute featurette which gives the director and the principal actors an opportunity to talk about the film. There is a fair amount of behind-the-scenes footage which shows how some of the scenes were composed. They discuss how Eel Marsh House was transformed from a beautiful estate into one which is neglected and unkempt, but it would have been nice to see how it looks in real life.

    "No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps" is a four-minute featurette which focuses on Radcliffe's performance. Everyone involved agrees that he is a hard-working professional who has a bright future playing adult roles.

    Sony has included previews of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; Lockout; Tonight You're Mine; 7500; In the Land of Blood and Honey; and Insidious.

    The Packaging

    The Woman in Black comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case. Included are instructions for downloading and/or streaming an UltraViolet version of the film.

    The Final Analysis

    The Woman in Black is a surprisingly effective chiller which relies on suspense, atmosphere and anticipation rather than gore for its thrills. An excellent cast and high production values add to the enjoyment, and Sony has served the film well by producing a first-rate Blu-ray presentation. Bear in mind that even without much in the way of gore this is a very intense film which could well be disturbing for younger viewers.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: May 22, 2012


     

     
  2. michael deakin

    michael deakin Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review richard.
    I watched this a week ago it was late at night so i wore headphones. And i must admit i jumped a couple of times while saying a few expletives. Iv'e seen quite a few of these types of film always promising a lot but delivering little, This one went against the trend and did deliver quite a few chills Recommended.
     
  3. Richard Gallagher

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  4. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    I think this film lends itself fairly well to repeat viewings so this will be a definite purchase. But I wish they'd stop using giant heads for "artwork" on these covers.
     
  5. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    I find much to enjoy and appreciate in The Woman In Black, but I don't think it was necessary to diverge so radically from the source novel. The novel has only one ghost -- the woman in black. The film restructures the story into a "wronged children-coming-back-for-revenge" tale, confusing the story and motives and thereby diminishing the impact of the woman in black.
    There should only be one ghost -- the woman in black. With that in mind I think the original film version is even scarier because it knows where the story is. The 1989 film was scripted by Nigel Kneale and directed by Herbert Wise.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004UEEU/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=
     
  6. Richard Gallagher

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    Thanks for your comments. I haven't read the book or seen the 1989 film version, so I had nothing to compare it with. The DVD of the 1989 version is out of print, as you probably know.
     

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