Thursday, June 21, 2012

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (Blu-ray)

Ever since the resurrected Hammer Studios returned to producing genre films a few years back, old-time fans of the original Hammer's Gothic horror movies have been eager to see the company logo on a traditional, period supernatural thriller. With THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) they get their wish granted.

London solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, the HARRY POTTER series), a young widower with a little boy, is assigned by his firm to travel to the small coastal village of Cryphin Gifford and the island mansion of the late Mrs. Drablow, Eel Marsh House. There he is expected to put her estate and papers in order so that the property can be sold. Kipps receives a bitterly cold reception upon his arrival in the village, and finds the locals an unfriendly and secretive bunch. But he has a job to do and sets out for the isolated manor house. It isn't long before he discovers that the place is haunted by the ghostly Woman in Black, a wrathful wraith that strikes terror in the hearts of the people of Cryphin Gifford...

Handsomely mounted and slickly acted, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a fine, good old fashioned ghost story, dripping with Gothic atmosphere and an overall pall of dread. Directed by James Watkins from a screenplay by Jane Goldman, which, in turn, is based upon the novel by Susan Hill, WOMAN moves at a leisurely - but never languid - pace, with a great deal of its running time consisting of dialogue-free scenes of Radcliffe's character investigating the spooky house and its eerie environs. That the young actor can hold the screen for such long periods with no one else to play off of, speaks volumes for his talent. Sure, he's no Peter Cushing, but he acquits himself quite admirably. The script is literate, creepy, and builds slowly and steadily to its conclusion, with more than a few surprises along the way. It's good, scary stuff.

Technically, it's damn-near perfect, with stunning cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones, who plays with gaslight and shadow the way a painter works with oils. Special effects are subtle and seamless, and the score by Marco Beltrami (HELLBOY) is the ominous icing on the cake. The supporting cast is also of a very high caliber.

As one might expect from a brand-new film, the Blu-ray edition from Sony sports a flawless, 1080p HD, 2.35:1 'scope transfer and startlingly rich and enveloping DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. Supplemental material consists of an audio commentary by director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman, a "Making Of" documentary, and a Daniel Radcliffe featurette.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK is an effective, Old School chiller that should please ghost story aficionados and classic horror fans. It's got plenty of 21st Century polish, but its heart rests firmly in the 19th. Recommended.

BUYThe Woman in Black (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy)  [Blu-ray]