Retro Review: The Woman in Black (1989)

First televised by the BBC in December 1989 and based on the Susan Hill novel of the same name, The Woman in Black is a stunning example of terror firmly founded on solid performances, carefully constructed atmosphere and chilling imagery.

Solicitor Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins) leaves his hometown of London for the coastal town of Crythin Gifford. He plans to attend the funeral of the widow Alice Drablow and settle up her estate, one of his firm’s longstanding clients.

Arriving at Crythin, Arthur meets with a steely silence by the townspeople…who are unwilling to discuss anything about the enigmatic Mrs. Drablow. But at her nearly unattended service, Arthur sees a woman dressed entirely in black (Pauline Moran)…a solitary figure at the back of the chapel.

Managing finally to reach the secluded and misty mansion of his deceased client (accessible only by carriage and at low tide), Arthur spies the black visage again – this time in the cemetery yard adjoining the house.

Arthur takes inventory of the estate items. As he waits on the road for the carriage that will take him back to town, he suddenly finds himself caught in a heavy, palpable fog. Without warning…unearthly wails erupt through the mists, sounds of someone in torment and in deadly pain. Miraculously making his way back to the Drablow house, Arthur is surprised to see the carriage arrive for him.

In town, he realizes he must return to the estate and complete his job. A recorder left on the premises and audio tapes of confessional snippets from Drablow lead Arthur on a journey of unlocking secrets, doors…and resurrecting ghosts.

Rawlins’ exemplary performance as solicitor Arthur Kidd is the chief backbone behind The Woman in Black.

Together with an intentionally slow-moving atmosphere…and revealing itself methodically piece by piece, this film is a ghost tale of calculation as well as of spirit.

The climax of The Woman in Black alone should assure its standing as a first-rate bone chiller. It’s an utterly brave choice of depressing ‘justice’ (for Kidd) and one which hearkens back to the best of the downbeat drama-thrillers of the 1970s.

Effective ghost stories are a fragile birth. What induces fear? The Woman in Black successfully distills the question to its absolute lowest common denominator. Eschewing multi-layered plots, meandering narratives or violent gore, Black concentrates full steam on the characterization of Kidd, the atmosphere of the misty Crythin and the insurmountable Drablow secret which pervades it all.

Im not usually a fan of older horror films but this one was good from beginning to end.

Rating 7/10

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About Robert (Buddy Horror) Smith 21 Articles
No. It's not that Robert W. Smith... I'm not the lead singer of the Cure. I am however, a fan of the Cure... Let's begin. I was born in Virginia and raised in New Jersey. I am happily married to my wife Kiersten Smith and a father of one to my handsome boy Asher Grayson Smith. Yes! His first name is because of the one and only Bruce Campbell most famously known from Sam Rami's "The Evil Dead" I started late in the horror game but I became a fast learner. I didn't watch my first horror movie till I was 10.. (The Haunted Mansion in Disney scared the hell out of me when I was a kid). It took 4 years until my dad was able to get me to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original). From that moment I was hooked. Over the years I have hosted a radio show called B Movies with Buddy, Bryan, and Zach with Bryan Enright and Zach Horiates on WNJC 1360AM. Together we have over 200 hours of interviews of some of the best interviews from Bill Mosley (House of 1000 Corpses / Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) to John Russo (Co Director of Night of the Living Dead / My Uncle John's a Zombie) It was probably some of the best times of my time in the scene. I love collecting horror movies with a collection of over 300 and counting it is one of my most prized possessions. I love collecting full series of a movies sequels. Even if some of them aren't the best. Follow me @buddyhorror on Twitter for random horror goodness and more from The Horror Syndicate! Top 5 Movies 1. The Evil Dead 2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Robert Englund Original) 3.House of 1000 Corpses 4.Dawn of the Dead (Remake) 5.Scream 4