Scary Movies for Mothers and Daughters: The Woman in Black

My daughters have been after me to watch more scary stuff after our foray into the genre with Psycho. I thought I would introduce them to some of the classics of the golden age of Hollywood, like The Wolfman (1941, starring Lon Chaney Jr) which they thought was ok but not very scary. It is a difficult thing to balance, as I don’t want to traumatize them (no splatter gore, no torture) but would like them to appreciate the delicious frisson of getting freaked out while watching a movie. My daughters are fans of the Goosebumps books so I used that as a guide. The Sixth Sense was a hit and so was The Others, so I thought I would give The Woman in Black a try. It was a movie the whole family was keen to see based on the trailers, so we did.

What a great choice! This was a gothic horror that was not gory or particularly violent. It was very atmospheric, with very little dialogue. It did a great job, building tension and startling both my daughters into fits of shrieks as they hid their eyes.

It told the story of a vengeful spirit that haunted an estate that Daniel Radcliff’s character, Arthur Kripps, was forced to visit. He was the barrister in charge of tidying up the paperwork so that the estate could be liquidated. His career depended on the success of this assigned task. Apparently he had been underperforming at work ever since he lost his wife in childbirth, 4 years prior.

When he arrived in the country village closest to the estate, he was surprised to find himself shunned. The village folks tried everything to send him back to London. Clearly, there was something terrifying in that old house. Before you know it, he caught a glimpse of a woman dressed in black, which was surprising as the estate grounds otherwise appeared abandoned. This news was met with hostility in the village where the folks doubled their efforts to drive Kripps away. All because of the legend of the woman in black, who once spotted, was linked the mysterious death of the village children. Apparently this repeated tragedy had terrorized the village for years.

The plot is quite simple. We follow Kripps as he slowly uncovers the mystery of this apparition. He tries to appease it and we are left with a satisfying ending. Along the way, we are startled by moving shadows at the corner of our screen, ghostly images reflected in windows and mirrors and loud noises. These are pretty cliché, but extremely well executed and herein lay the strength of this film. There is nothing particularly original about it; but it succeeded in creeping out me, my husband and 2 preteen daughters. And boy was it fun watching the girls shriek (ok, I admit it, I shrieked a bit too).

This film probably won’t scare a seasoned veteran of modern splatter/gore films. However, if you want to introduce a young person to the thrill of a creepy gothic horror, this film is a good place to start. The acting is subdued and Radcliffe does well portraying a troubled young father. Ciaran Hinds is always guaranteed to please, and this film is no exception. The cinematography and sound (mostly startling haunted house noises) do a fine job upping the creep quotient.

The girls were scared enough to bunk together after the film but were nightmare-free and ready for the next onslaught of scary stuff. So I will probably continue revisiting old episodes of Supernatural on DVD with them until I pick the next film. Jaws, Blair Witch, maybe? I am open to suggestions.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John McCullagh (@jpmccullagh)
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 12:44:44

    The Ring still freaks me out. Not sure if it’s appropriate for pre teens but I don’t recall any gore–just lots of creepiness. And I recently re-watched a bunch of the old Abbott & Costello films–they are suprisingly effective at the scares (Frankenstein, Mummy, Invisible Man, Hold That Ghost, Who Done it etc)


    • dvdiva
      Aug 25, 2012 @ 13:53:18

      oh yes the Ring is soo creepy. I am almost afraid to embarass myself in front of my kids with that one but will definitely put it on the list. I never considered the Abbott & Costello films, good suggestion. Thanks!


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