Review Rating: 7
Spoilers come in Black too!
Tormented young lawyer Arthur Kipps travels to a remote village that’s being haunted by the spirit of a vengeful woman in black.
It’s very Victorian horror. Everyone is very proper and buttoned-up and restrained, there’s pocket-fob watches and apparently only the one car in the entire village, and of course the locals are very suspicious of strangers.
So Arthur Kipps lost his beloved wife Stella at the birth of their son Joseph four years ago. Did I mention Kipps is acted by Daniel Radcliffe, and we should all know who that is. I’m seeing a younger Johnny Depp in From Hell or Edward Norton in The Illusionist, even. At least, that’s what they tried for. Because Radcliffe is surrounded by actors considerably at least older-looking than him, his youth practically screams at you in every scene. The film did try very hard to make him look old enough to have a four year old son, nice suit and even sideburns; it still doesn’t quite work. But he’ll get there. Sadly because it’s Victorian style ghost horror, this means a good half the movie involves nothing but Radcliffe running about in his shirtsleeves, looking scared.
So the town of Cyphin Gifford is haunted, the locals young children have a tendency to die in mysterious circumstances once they reach a certain age, and of course none of the locals want to talk about it. Arthur has been given a last chance by his lawyerly employer, to go to Gifford and check out the left behind estate of one Mrs. Drablow, recently deceased. On the train he befriends Daily, who is played by the incomparable Ciaran Hinds. As much as I adore the actor, he’s yet another who makes Radcliffe’s youth scream at the screen, and the two characters are together a lot. Anyway, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, Arthur’s made it to Eel Marsh House, Mrs. Drablow’s former residence, where he begins to piece together the whole story of the woman in black. Yes I will spoil it, sorry – Mrs. Drablow’s beloved son was lost to the marsh, and she takes her vengeance on children of the townsfolk. There’s a lot of paperwork in her house, shown at the screen in a haphazard manner so we only get parts of it, things like Mrs. Drablow was considered to be an unfit mother for whatever reason, her son was adopted out, and it was under the care of the fosters, whom it looks like are partially accused of ill-treating the boy, that the poor boy loses his life in the marsh. It also is hedged that several of the older townsfolk knew what happened to the boy, and covered it up as best they could – not hard to lose an already-dead body in another part of the marsh, right? All this combines to make a very vengeful ghost woman all in black, who generally saves her jump scares for the audience and not for Arthur, which is again, very Victorian horror. The story and the styling in which it’s presented remind me a little of Dead Silence, and I actually rather enjoyed that movie.
So after figuring all this out, which does take Arthur awhile, our tormented Protag decides he just has to lay the ghost of Mrs. Drablow to rest, before his own Joseph shows up in Gifford on the train and the curse takes him too. You would think, I would’ve thought, that because Arthur was actually able to find her beloved boy and lay his corpse to rest in her very own coffin, that Mrs. Drablow would’ve let Arthur and his son go. The fact that she didn’t, regardless of the rejoining of the ghostly family at long last in beautifully soft-lit colors, is still a truly horrific ending. It’s not bad a Victorian ghost horror story, I recommend giving it a try at least.