The family and I went to see the latest version of The Woman in Black tonight. LB and I saw a BBC production many years ago and loved it - very scary. Lots of creepy atmosphere and you don't get to see too much of the ghost - just enough. It now sells for quite a few bucks on Amazon but thankfully we bought it for a reasonable price while they were still burning the DVDs.
Those wanting to avoid the premium for used discs can look forward to the recent outing with Daniel Radcliffe in his first adult role (that I'm aware of anyway). The movie is also getting press as it heralds the resurrection of Hammer Films, the iconic British house of campy horror films of the 50's and 60's, typically featuring Christopher Lee as a Dracula no one seems to be able to kill off and Peter Cushing as a bad mad scientist or a good bad scientist who screws up his experiments and creates stuff that kills people.
Radcliffe turns in a fine performance, though you can see how years of Harry Potter prepared him well for this role. He's not exactly broadening his acting horizons looking scared in spooky situations. But, you know, that's ok. It's still early in his career, and he did well enough.
Now for the important stuff.
I love a good ghost story, and WiB delivers for the most part. The setting is Victorian England, there is lots of fog and rain, and the house is done up (or down I guess) very well. The shockers are pretty decent and punctuated with jolts of soundtrack (da dum!!) that would be startling enough without the on-screen effects. Absent is the cheesy CGI that ruins most modern attempts at the horror genre. And unlike others films, WiB leaves plenty of room for the movie-goer's imagination to do its job. It still doesn't quite compare to the gold-standard of ghost movies, The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963), but it comes as close as anything in recent memory.
Even when filmmakers get ghosts right, wrapping up the story in a way that keeps the scares going and allows good to triumph (sort of) is a bar just out of reach for most writers. WiB managed to get an "ok, not bad" out of me, which, frankly, is pretty good. Another plus is that it's only PG-13 for good ol'fashioned voilence and blood; no sex, and no f-bombs so it's fairly safe for kids who have grown out of the nightmare, monsters in the closet stage.
It's too bad Hammer couldn't deliver this in time for Halloween, but better late than never. Like Downton Abbey, our British cousins demonstrate solid competence serving up decent spooky fun in a sub-genre typically ill-served by Hollywood.