Movie Review: The Woman In Black

Well.. I just saw the movie “The Woman In Black” last night with some friends and I decided I might as well blog about it. I should warn you that this is probably gonna be a a ton of spoilage going on in this blog, so be warned. The Woman In Black is the latest film starring Daniel Radcliffe(From Harry Potter). Essentially, the film is a British ghost story about the vengeful spirit of a woman haunting an English town. The film itself is an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by Susan Hill.

In the film which takes place in England’s Edwardian era, Radcliffe plays the role of one Arthur Kipps; a young, widdowed lawyer who’s down on his luck financially. He lives with his young 4 year old son Joseph, and his son’s nanny (Jessica Raine) (Who I don’t believe is ever named in the movie.) Kipps’ wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) apparently died in the midst of giving birth to their son. In the beginning of the film, Arthur has occasional visions of her and is facing stress from his employers at the law firm. You get the feeling that he wants to end it all in a manor reminiscent of Sweeny Todd.  He is given an assignment (His last and final one if he fails.) to handle the estate of a deceased woman namd Alice Drablow who owned Eel Marsh, where she lived with her husband, son Nathaniel, and sister, Jennet Humfrye (Liz White). This is basically to prove to his employers that he isn’t too crippled with grief to do what’s expected of him.

Eventually Kipps arrives in Crythin Gifford, and to a less than warm welcome from the locals as they all warn him to turn and go home.  Having been repeatedly told to leave, he of course ignores the protests of his presence. At the march he starts working on the stacks of paperwork left there, but he repeatedly hears footsteps and and eventually sees a woman dressed all in black. Kipps reports the sighting at the local police station. From the time he arrives in the station, things go from mysterious to downright bad when two boys bring in their sister who drank lye and she dies in Arthur’s arms, coughing blood. She is not the first child in town to commit suicide, and the townspeople believe the “Woman in Black” comes for their children as revenge for her child being taken from her in life. This however is not a fact known by Kipps.

As he continues to dig deeper and deeper into the mystery of this mysterious figure in black and the connection with the people of the town, his cool demeanor melts (For lack of a better word.) when faced with the mountain of proof that there is indeed something dark, sinister, and truly unholy taking up residence within the walls of Eel Marsh House.

At first, being the huge Harry Potter fan I claim to be, I thought it would be difficult to view Radcliffe as anything other than Harry Potter; given the sheer success and lengthy run of the films. I couldn’t have been farther from wrong. Of course there were elements of the film that had a certain… Harry Potter-esque feel, such as Crythin Gifford giving off a somewhat Godrics Hollow/Hogsmeade Village vibe. Then there was the fact that the feel of the film was as dark as, if not darker than the last few Potter films. I couldn’t help but occasionally get the feeling that this was once again Harry Potter facing off against some dark force or another. Throughout the film, I found myself wanting to yell out “Use your wand harry.” Somehow I managed to look past all that and ended up thoroughly enjoying the film. For a horror film, it was certainly less gruesome than your typical horror movie; even your typical ghost story horror. It was a chance for Daniel Radcliffe to show that he’s more than just “the boy who lived” and the guy who defeated the most powerful dark lord of all times.I’d say he more than showed that.

The cast of the film did an amazing job. I can’t find anything wrong with their acting, no matter how hard I might try. Ciarán Hinds did a fantastic job as Sam Daily. What else could be expected from the man who portrayed Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2.?. Janet McTeer did a splendid job in the role of Mrs. Daily. Seeing her as her son is spoken about in conversation made the film for me as much as the acting in the film in general did. Liz White, although not the biggest name in the film, had the key role as The Woman In Black herself. Her portrayal of The Woman was different than what I’d expected, due to most female horror movie antagonists being more…gruesome; like the female character in “The Grudge” or in “Dead Silence”. That being said, She did a fantastic job. The last thing I’d want to walk into in the middle of the night would be The Woman In Black. The other cast members did an equally fantastic job in their roles.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’d advise going to see it.

Advertisements

A Not So Brief Lesson In Horror

As I’ve been a little heavy on the sci-fi of late, I figured I’d give horror another go.

HORROR
• noun 1) an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. 2) a thing causing such a feeling. 3) intense dismay. 4) informal a bad or mischievous person, especially a child.
— ORIGIN Latin, from horrere ‘shudder, (of hair) stand on end.

Though this blog was made originally about the evolution of horror as a genre of film, you can’t go on talking about horror films without addressing their origins in literature.

For as long as mankind has told stories, there have been stories about the Unknown, the Other, things we might call speculative fiction. Every culture has its creation myths inhabited by demons, darkness, spirits, and the like.  Early Abrahamic, Egyptian, and Celtic mythology sounds stories of worlds beyond the physical, worlds of spirits, faeries, angels and the like, to be revered and feared.

Classical mythology is full of monsters –  Harpys, Centaurs, Cerberus, the Minotaur, Medusa, the Hydra, the Sirens, the Furies, Arachne, Scylla and Charybdis to name a few- and heroes had to navigate safely through the land of the dead on frequent occasions. Ancestor worship and the veneration of the dead began with the Zhou dynasty in China, 1500 years BC. The modern horror genre as we know it is only about 200 years old, but it has distinguished antecedents. Every culture has a set of stories dealing with the unknown and unexplained, tales that chill, provoke and keep the listener wondering “what if..?” Horror films are the modern-day version of the epic poems and ballads of old, told round the fires of our ancestors.

In the Gothic Tradition:  “The term ‘horror’ first comes into play with Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto, full of supernatural shocks and mysterious melodrama. Although rather a stilted tale, it started a craze, spawning many imitators in what we today call the gothic mode of writing. Better writers than Walpole, such as Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho) and Matthew Lewis (The Monk) took the form to new heights of thrills and suspense. For half a century, gothic novels reigned supreme. As the Age of Enlightenment gave way to the new thinking of the early nineteeth century, Romantic poets of the stature of Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel) and Goethe (The Erlking) reflected the strong emotions of the movement through a glass darkly, recognising that fear and awe aren’t so very different sensations. The first great horror classic (Frankenstein 1818) was written by a Romantic at the heart of the movement – Mary Shelley.”

Nosferatu (1922)

F.W. Murnau’s German silent classic is the original and some say most frightening DRACULA adaptation, taking Bram Stoker’s novel and turning it into a haunting, shadowy dream full of dread.

Dracula (1931)

This is the first screen version of Bram Stoker’s famous tale based on the smash hit stage production. Count Dracula arrives in London and immediately works to enrapture and transform into vampires young Lucy Weston and her friend Mina Seward.

Frankenstein (1931)

Scientist Henry Frankenstein and his hunchbacked assistant, Fritz, embark on an unholy mission by stealing a body from a graveyard and a human brain from a medical college. Unbeknownst to Frankenstein, however, Fritz takes a violent and murderous abnormal brain.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

A masterly mix of horror and black comedy, is the first in a series of sequels to FRANKENSTEIN. Mary Shelley resumes her gothic tale after the face-off in a burning windmill between Henry Frankenstein and his horrific creation, the Monster.

Village of the Damned (1960)

For 10 hours, something — or someone — causes all the residents of a small British hamlet to black out. Shortly thereafter, several women end up pregnant, and the babies they give birth to have startling physical similarities: they’re white-haired and frozen-faced, with formidable intellects and the ability to communicate telepathically.

Psycho (1960)

Bates presides over an out-of-the-way motel under the domineering specter of his mother. The young, well-intentioned Bates is introduced to the audience when Marion Crane, a blonde on the run with stolen money, checks in for the night.

The Birds (1963)

Wealthy reformed party girl Melanie Daniels enjoys a brief flirtation with lawyer Mitch Brenner in a San Francisco pet shop and decides to follow him to his Bodega Bay home. Bearing a gift of two lovebirds, Melanie quickly strikes up a romance with Mitch while contending with his possessive mother and boarding at his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Seven people secluded in a Pennsylvania farmhouse face relentless attacks by reanimated corpses seeking to eat their flesh. The group, which includes a married couple and their daughter, a pair of young lovers, and an African-American man, try to keep their sanity as the living dead keep trying to enter the house.

The Exorcist (1973)

Regan MacNeil, a 12-year-old who is possessed by the devil. After exhausting all other practical options, Regan’s mother, Chris, acknowledges the supernatural nature of her daughter’s condition and recruits Father Damien Karras to stage an exorcism.

Jaws (1975)

During the height of beach season, the Massachusetts resort town of Amity Island is terrorized one summer by surprise attacks from a great white shark. Three unlikely partners team up to hunt down the rogue and destroy it: the new chief of police from New York, a young university-educated oceanographer, and a crusty old-time fisherman.

Carrie (1976)

Carrie White has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Her mother, Margaret, a religious fanatic, never told her about menstruation, so Carrie thinks she is bleeding to death. Her cries for help are met with abuse by the entire gym class. The gym teacher, Miss Collins is horrified at Carrie’s naivete.

Halloween (1978)

An exercise in simple, pure horror, HALLOWEEN takes us into the world of a mad killer, Michael Myers, who at a very young age stabbed his older sister to death. Locked away for many years in a mental hospital Michael escapes one night and returns to his hometown to continue his killing spree.

Salem’s Lot (1979)

A writer returns to his New England home town only to find its genteel citizens are turning into vampires. This cable version of SALEM’S LOT was released theatrically overseas as BLOOD THIRST and… A writer returns to his New England home town only to find its genteel citizens are turning into vampires.

The Howling (1981)

Popular female reporter in Los Angeles who cannot escape the horror of a traumatic experience that she suffered while trying to capture Eddie Quist, a dangerous serial killer. When her psychologist recommends a retreat to “The Colony,” up the Northern California coast, she reluctantly agrees, hoping to recover from her nightmarish visions.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

David Kessler and Jack Goodman are two American students on a backpacking tour of Europe. Wandering the backroads of gloomy East Proctor, England, they find a pub where the unhelpful locals act suspiciously strange. The unsuspecting boys flee the pub in search of lodging after being warned to avoid the moors.

Poltergeist (1982)

Life in the Freeling family’s tract home is comfortably bland, but frisky poltergeists soon put a little excitement into their daily routine–moving furniture and communicating with their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, through the television set. Unfortunately, harmless pranks quickly turn nasty and the previously friendly ghosts kidnap Carol Anne, trapping her in the spirit world.

The Thing (1982)

A group of weary scientists enduring the winter in an isolated camp deep in Antarctica chance upon an alien spacecraft buried in the ice. Near the strange craft is the body of an alien being, frozen solid. Thinking they have made the find of a lifetime, the scientists bring the alien body back to camp and thaw it out.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A replusive, decaying figure with razor-sharp appendages (and an even sharper sense of humor!) suddenly appears in the dreams of four Los Angeles teenagers. It is the ghost of Freddy Krueger. A replusive, decaying figure with razor-sharp appendages (and an even sharper sense of humor!) suddenly appears in the dreams of four Los Angeles teenagers.

Hellraiser (1987)

The tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature–the man’s half-brother, who is also the woman’s former lover–hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons called the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor.

Child’s Play (1988)

The Lake Shore Strangler, a mass murderer who has plagued the Chicago area for months, meets his untimely end when he gets shot in a toy warehouse. Left for dead, the killer summons the strength to.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Dr. Louis Creed, having just moved to Maine with his wife and two children, is heartbroken when he finds that his daughter’s beloved cat has been hit by a truck and killed. Thankfully, a strange, elderly neighbor called Jud knows a secret that may spare the young girl’s tears.

Scream (1996)

A hyper-intelligent serial killer preys on the teenage denizens of a small town, using their fascination with horror movie conventions to set up his diabolical doings. An intelligent, well-crafted… A hyper-intelligent serial killer preys on the teenage denizens of a small town, using their fascination with horror movie conventions to set up his diabolical doings.

Saw (2004)

A young man named Adam wakes to find himself chained to a rusty pipe inside a decrepit subterranean chamber. Chained to the opposite side of the room is another bewildered captive, Dr. Lawrence Gordon. Between them is a dead man lying in a pool of blood, holding a .38 in his hand. Neither man knows why he has been abducted, but instructions left on a microcassette order Dr. Gordon to kill Adam within eight hours.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

The action begins with nurse Ana waking up to discover her boyfriend has become a tasty midnight snack for a formerly cute neighboring kid. To her horror, she realizes that the whole town is in a similar state of ghoulishness, until she runs into still-alive cop Kenneth; the levelheaded Michael; and Andre, a rebel with a pregnant wife in tow.

Hostel (2006)

Paxton and Josh have embarked upon a hedonistic tour of the continent, and somewhere along the way they picked up an Icelandic lunk named Oli. In Amsterdam the trio partakes of the pastimes most dear to frat boys everywhere: weed, prostitutes, and nightclubs. But when a fellow traveler tells these thrill-seekers about the decadent scene that awaits them in Bratislava…

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of Great Britain, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.

The Mist (2007)

This film adaptation of a Stephen King novel is an intense and terrifying ride from beginning to end. The monsters are scary to be sure, but it is the humans that provide the real horror.

Shutter (2008)

A newly married couple discovers disturbing, ghostly images in photographs they develop after a tragic accident. Fearing the manifestations may be connected, they investigate and learn that some mysteries are better left unsolved.

The Wolfman (2010)

In 1891, Ben Talbot (Simon Merrells) is confronted by a ultrahuman wolf-like creature in the Blackmoor woods. He tries to escape, but is mauled and killed by the beast. Gwen Conliffe , Ben’s fiancée, has contacted his brother, Lawrence Talbot, the world-renowned Shakespearean actor, saying that Ben disappeared a month ago. Lawrence leaves his theater tour to return to his family’s estate in Blackmoor where he has an uneasy reunion with his estranged father, Sir John. Later, it is revealed that Lawrence’s mother, Solana (Christina Contes), had committed suicide when he was a boy. Lawrence saw his father standing over her dead body, after which, Sir John sent his young son to an insane asylum in London, ostensibly for suffering delusions…

The Thing (2011)

In 1982, an extraterrestrial spaceship is discovered beneath the Antarctic ice by a Norwegian research team: Edvard (Trond Espen Seim), Jonas (Kristofer Hivju), Olav (Jan Gunnar Røise), Karl (Carsten Bjørnlund), Juliette (Kim Bubbs), Lars (Jørgen Langhelle), Henrik, and Peder (Stig Henrik Hoff). Paleontologist Kate Lloyd is recruited by Dr. Sander Halvorson and his assistant Adam Finch to investigate the team’s discovery. After viewing the ship, Kate, Sander, and Adam are informed that the group has also discovered a survivor of the crashed ship buried in the ice. The alien is transported to the Norwegian base in a block of ice. Sander orders the retrieval of a tissue sample from the creature against Kate’s warnings…

Enough with the educational side of this though. In the field of modern film, horror has come a long way from the days of F.W. Murnau’s German silent classic Nosferatu. And even though modern day horror films  tell the same age-old stories our ancestors once told (stories warning of mysterious strangers in the night, of monsters and things that dwell in the darkness, stories of things gone heard but unseen), they do it with a more interactive flair. The storyteller and the camp fire have been almost effectively replaced by Hollywood, the big screen, and special effects . It’s safe to say that as long as there are people, there will be stories and people to tell them. And so long as there are storytellers to capture the essence of the unknown with their words, there will be horror stories.

Zombies and Magic and Line-dancing ..Oh My!!

Six friends take an ill faited road trip to Galveston, Texas in an RV for the wedding of their friend, Kelly (Portia de Rossi). The driver, Johnny (Oz Perkins), gets lost and they arrive in the small town of Lovelock and his friends Sara (Ever Carradine), Kate (Bianca Lawson), Melody (Gina Philips), Christian (Jeremy Sisto), and David (Erik Palladino), decide to spend the night in a bed and breakfast owned by the creepy Mr. Robert Wise (David Carradine).

David has an argument with the chef of the inn, Henri (Diedrich Bader), and when the chef is found dead and Mr. Wise has a heart attack in the middle of the night, the local Sheriff (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) suspects the group of travelers have a hand in it . He instructs his Deputy, Enos (Mark Kelly), to confiscate the keys to their RV and tells them that they have to stay in town for the duration of the investigation. The Sheriff then arrests a mysterious drifter (Brent David Fraser) [Gotta love those mysterious drifter characters…] who soon becomes his prime suspect in the murder. When the clumsy Johnny accidentally breaks an ancient exotic wooden box belonging to Mr. Wise, he releases the terrible, monstrous “Kuman Thong” (A take on the Thai Guman Thong or Spirit Child) which possesses all the local town folk, transforming them into zombies. Ultimately, the mysterious drifter becomes the hero. He is a long time student of powers from “the other side”, and is the only one who knows how to fight and kill the evil spirit. He sets about doing this with the help of Sara and Melody. Only they survive, leaving the bed and breakfast in ruins and what’s left of the town behind.

In so many ways, this film is like most other zombie films. Mysterious things happen and of course nobody involved wants to believe in the existence of the zombies or of the “Kuman Thong”. Unlike most other zombie films though, the only initially likable character is to blame for all the misfortune that befalls the cast of characters. If that’s not enough, this movie unlike most zombie movies boasts redneck zombies. What’s more, these Appalachian-like undead dance. While it’s just plain sad, you can’t help but watch it and laugh. It brings to mind Michael Jackson’s music video for Thriller.

As far as acting goes, the only real actor in the movie seems to be Mr. Carradine, though he has a limited appearance in the film. After watching this movie I was left solely with George Takei’s famous catchphrase. “Oh My!” Anyway, if you like movies that are loosely glued together with zombies, David Carradine, line dancing, rednecks, and seemingly random introductions to quasi Asian paranormal beliefs,  or movies that are so bad they’re possibly good then take a look at this movie and make your own opinion.

Night of the Living Allegory

Cinema is littered with allegory, from movies as far back as Metropolis(1927) & its allegory of a fear of mob rule, fear of being overcome by technology  to current day, such as with The Chronicles of Narnia and their allegory of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the lion Aslan. Allegory is everywhere, whether it’s meant to be there or not. Ever since the first zombie dug its way from out of the earth, zombies have been a widely used and popular symbol of our science run amok. You can look at a zombie film and see it as an allegory/symbol for out of control technology, as they are often brought into being by a spill of some highly toxic experimental chemical, re-animated through the means of some bio-engineered/man-made bio-weapon, or even though less often than other cases they are brought into being due to mans meddling in forces far beyond their understanding.

With Night of the Living Dead you have the possibility of all of these allegories, yet one that stands above them all is that of racism. The role of the lead character of the film (Ben) is played by Duane Jones, a black male; though the role does not call for a black male specifically. Ben is noticeably the sole non-white character in the film. Some saw this casting as significant, but George A. Romero says “he simply gave the best audition.”

Looking at the film, you can see the interaction and the distinction between the black and the white characters in the film.  Racism is defined as “The belief or doctrine that all members of each race possess inherent differences or abilities specific to that race that determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race  is superior and has the right to rule others.”

As noted by one Steven Russell, within the film Night of the Living Dead “despite the fact that Ben is the only member of the house that survives the night and in spite of his success against white zombies, he is killed quickly and cleanly by the living white, the zombie lynch mob, as he emerges into daylight.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, there are zombie films where the dead are often brought into being by a spill of some highly toxic experimental chemical, re-animated through the means of some bio-engineered/man-made bio-weapon, or even though less often than other cases they are brought into being due to mans meddling in forces far beyond their understanding. Most of these cases easily show in the titles 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later where you have a zombie outbreak unleashed by means of monkeys who’ve been tested on using a “rage virus” which infects unsuspecting and slightly militant “animal rights activists” early in the film. These two titles(28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later) also highlight how quickly man can go from reasonable and rational to irrational and just plain immoral.

Though lacking subtlety, in Zombies of Mass Destruction we see less the folly of man in his becoming overwhelmed with aftermath of his own machinations and a more racist, sexist, homophobic underbelly not of the undead, but of the people in the town who are plagued by the undead. The virus in this movie is described as a “terrorist” virus and being in a small town, one of its inhabitants believe the sole Middle Eastern girl in town to have had a hand in the virus attack. Here you see the racism brought to light by the zombie outbreak. It is not that the outbreak caused the racism, but that because of the outbreak we are allowed to more clearly see racism’s presence. You have sexist mayor who flouts the campaign of his female opposition, but more-so you have homophobia brought to light by the homophobic yet quite closetly gay preacher. In the film, before the outbreak takes place you have a cute gay couple who are coming to visit with the mother of the not soo openly gay half of said couple. The mothers reaction shows a lesser degree of homophobia than the aforementioned preacher. Through “re-education” he believes he can change someone from gay to g-d fearing straight. The themes of racism and homophobia lay strewn about the story this movie tells.

Regardless of the film title or director; zombie films have come with some lesson or parable that we as human beings should probably take to heart. Till that happens, there will always be a zombie movie pointing out the bigotry, violence, hate, racism, and just plain worse that humanity has to offer…while occasionally…possibly offering us a laugh or scream or two to lighten the tone or not focus soo heavily on the meat of the films.