Tuesday, 21 February 2012

From Book to Stage to Screen 2: The Horror

The second input into our 'From a book to a stage show to the screen day' originally comes from a book by Susan Hill and then went to the West End and is one of the longest running productions there. It now comes to screen in Hammer's return to the top of horror. How will one of the most famous and terrifying stage shows of all time compare on the screen? Let's take a break from the Oscars; let's look at The Woman In Black.

Lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), is being sent to investigate all the papers of the recently deceased Alice Drablow in her home, Eel Marsh House. The house is on a small island and separated from the mainland by a causeway which gets flooded when the tide comes in. The marshes surrounded the causeway are deadly and so it is only safe to travel it at low tide. Kipps' arrival in the village is unwelcome and the locals are less than warm towards him, but he soon befriends Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds), who offers him food and a bed while he carries out his work. However, it seems there is a less friendly welcome for Kipps at the house and it seems he is not alone on the deserted island. The locals become even more wary of Kipps and it appears there's a dark curse over the village in the form of a vengeful ghost. Kipps takes matters into his own hands in the hope he can return to his son happily.

Kipps thought taking out a ghost would be child's play.

As his first big performance on screen since the end of Harry Potter, many people were questioning whether he was going to stand up to the challenge and not be Harry. I'm pleased to announce that he is not Harry Potter any more. That being said, he is still a very British character who is unfortunate circumstances and fighting a force that has powers beyond his comprehension. So you will be forgiven if you find it too Harry Potter-ish. Also a great performance from Ciarán Hinds as the upbeat but secretive Daily who helps Kipps out. Though the best turns come from Liz White as Jennet Humfrye (a.k.a. the woman in black), who is genuinely chilling throughout the movie, and all the villagers who show their fear, frustration, and anger in every line, every word, and every action. Nothing to criticise really in the form of acting, however nothing outstanding.

Daily finally discovered 'The Scary Door'
Like a lot of horrors, it is made or ruined in the handling of the technical elements. The building of suspense, the catharsis, the jump scares, and the way these are created. Fortunately, Woman in Black nails almost all of these on the head. The tension created in the long, dark pauses when we see a shadow or hear a noise and adventure with Kipps to find out what it was. The dramatic irony was used to a brilliant standard and the feel of classic horror throbbed throughout the movie. However, it also fell at a couple of hurdles. The fear of the unknown, to my mind, is the most prominent fear. That's what makes audio scares so effective: you don't know what's causing the sound. this movie relied to heavily on visual scares and obvious scares every now and then and at those points, the whole building of suspension was wasted.

The film is really chilling and will more than likely make you jump or have trouble sleeping. While there is much to improve on, as far as modern horrors go, it is an outstanding achievement. A definite recommendation for horror fans. Fans of the book or stage show will leave wanting to re-visit those previous areas of media. Just don't expect the same story. It is the definition of adaptation of a text.

Best Bit? I feel in a horror, the best bit is the scariest. The bit that made me jump most involved a single hand print on a window. Go see it to see what I mean.

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