Director – Herbert Wise
Cast – Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, David Daker, Pauline Moran, David Ryall, Clare Holman, John Cater, , John Franklyn-Robbins, Fiona Walker
Release Year – 1989
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a late 80s British TV movie that I had heard of for quite some time, and now that a remake is currently in the works I decided that I had to see this film NOW, and I am glad that I did. Most of the time TV movies tend to be lame watches in comparison to feature horror films, but ever now and then we get a true gem that despite the lack of gore and kills manages to be a great horror watch…and that is the case with The Woman In Black.
Arthur Kidd is a young solicitor working his way up a prestigious law firm. When an old friendless widow dies and leaves her large estate to no one, Arthur is tasked with his biggest assignment yet, and must spend a week in the dead woman’s home as he sorts our her estate. He knows nothing of the old woman or her estate, but upon entering her solemn town he is bombarded by the local townsfolk to stay away from her mansion at all costs. Arthur of course cannot oblige, and he not only learns the dark history of the old widow, but comes face to face with the most haunting evil imaginable.
If you know me then you know that I have an immense love for the supernatural in horror, so when I saw that this film was a devout ghost story it had my attention from the get-go. This is not the first time that we get a ghost story involving an old wealthy person dying and leaving behind a dark and creepy legacy, but it has always been an interesting concept to me due to the mystery involved in the person’s background. The Woman In Black first started off as a novel by Susan Hill, and was also adapted to a very successful play that seems to have surpassed the film in popularity.
The storyline is simple in nature, and consists mainly of Arthur rummaging through the old widow’s belongings and slowly uncovering the dark secrets she kept. We get great dialogue from all of the characters involved, and thankfully none of the major characters in the film come off as a waste of time or as a runtime filler, which I will always respect. The film does tend to move a bit slow at times, but that is often the case with these UK TV movies, and for the most part I was given enough positive elements to keep me engaged in the film.
Director Robert Wise did a great job bringing the screenplay to screen, and gave us excellent atmosphere that bled gloominess all around. His grainy cinematography and numerous low-lit(but not hindering) sets helped provide the environment required for some good spooky scenes, and while the film is not overly scary it did come with its fair share of good spooks. In fact, before viewing this film I had come across a discussion based on a scene in the film that was apparently one of the scariest the horror genre has to offer, and after viewing the scene myself (the discussion was not spoiler-filled thankfully) I must concur that the scene is absolutely amazing and still holds its grasp on its viewers 21 years later. The usage of the lady in black was excellent, and her posture, demeanor, and actions were dead on creepy. I was even more surprised to see just how creepy and well-crafted her facial features were, which only added to the eeriness already present. I mentioned earlier that the film does tend to become a bit slow here and there, but good direction and great performances by all of the film’s actors helped this 100 minute watch flow positively.
Overall, this is one of the better horror TV movies out there and includes some nice spooky scenes sure to stick with its viewers for years to come. A cool story and good direction sell this watch to the viewer, and this comes recommended by me if you want a good ghost story.