Well, lookit that! It’s the End of the World today! Woo!
So, in honor of the coming apocalypse described by the Mayans – now extinct as a race, if you hadn’t noticed – so long ago, I decided to do a little research on the alignment of the galactic core, the Earth (and yes, unless you’re using that word to describe dirt, it’s capitalized), and the Sun. You know what I found out?
Those three things align every winter solstice. Every one.
So, I guess I’m going to have to get up when my alarm goes off on January 2, 2013.
Well, thanks Mayans. Well played; make everyone run around being all apocalyptic and whatnot, while you laugh at us from the dim and savage jungle-y past.
‘Course, you’re extinct now…
Anyway, I also decided I’d like to watch a ghost story. On the off chance the Mayans were wrong, and I wasn’t going to miss Christmas due to world termination after all, I wanted to honor the ghost story traditions of the holiday and see a really good ghost movie.
Easier said than done. I’m also hankering for a good rendition of A Christmas Carol, so I’ll be scouting for that next.
Nevertheless, I wanted a good one. And that’s no mean feat. Most ghost movies are either farces or were too far ahead of their time for the technology to keep up with the stories. But on Thursday night – to close out my first day of vacation – I surfed through Vudu and found a “meh”-rated ghost story which, when I viewed the reviews, came up with one word which caused me to go “Hmm…”
That word: “Creepy.”
Okay, so into the queue it goes. After all, I just sat through Bad Moon last week. See my thoughts on that here, if you’re interested. What harm could it do to sit through a movie a horror site or reviewer called “creepy”?
But, to work up my horror hackles first, I sat through the cult-popular Ginger Snaps, because I’d seen the others but not the original. And I wanted to know what that was all about from the get-go. It was fun. Sorta. Not horrible. But it got ratings from the Vudu viewers similar to the movie I’d chosen, so I thought I’d get prepared.
With no expectations of a good story, acting, or movie of any kind in mind, I asked my beloved to sit and watch with me. She agreed, and after finishing some last minute kitchen chores, we dimmed the lights and sat down to watch a movie.
The title is The Woman in Black, and it features Daniel Radcliff (of Harry Potter movie series fame) as a 19th century lawyer based in London who travels to a town in the far northeast of the country to settle the estate of a manor for his firm. It’s his last chance before being terminated from the outfit, because while they understand his situation – a single father after the death of his wife during childbirth four years before – he simply doesn’t do enough to be considered for further employment. So this task is a last chance at redemption in the firm’s eyes for the young man.
The backstory unfolds with grace and only a touch of ham-handedness on occasion. And let’s face it, backstory’s not easy anyway. It’s hard to tell someone – viewer, reader, story observer, whatever – everything which led to this moment, the story’s moment, but this one did all right with flashback memories (eh – what’re you gonna do? these are clumsy), and casual conversation (very well done, I thought).
The movie opens with a fairly chilling scene, cuts to Radcliffe and gives us part of his tale, then goes on to the relationship between he and his son, and then the story’s off and running. It’s not a terribly long setup and isn’t at all boring, and once the young man arrives at the seaside town far to the north, things get rolling in no time.
The story’s a little predictable. Most ghost stories are. But it also had its share of starts (my wife leaped from her seat at least three times in the movie’s first half hour), and had fabulous creepy moments tossed in throughout. The tension builds nicely as the story unfolds, and at the movie’s climax, the twist, while not completely unexpected, certain is different for a movie like this.
I rated The Woman in Black five stars. I rated Daniel Radcliffe five stars as well. He did an amazing job and shows his acting chops. I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie – and never will – but the boy can act. He did a good job and the movie was very, very good.
The film gets highest marks from me for being atmospheric. The setting is amazing, every inch the 19th century ghost story, with great homage to the spiritism so prevalent during the Victorian era. It’s an excellent visual feast, I thought, and superbly done.
I’d recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see a well made, well written, well acted ghost story. There haven’t been a lot of those in my experience over the last fifteen years or so, and this one shouldn’t be missed. And, in the grand tradition of Christmas ghost stories, it was perfect for the season.