Friday, June 8, 2012

Book to Movie Classics: The Woman in Black

For those of you who are movie lovers like me, I'm about to give you a goose of a DVD rental: The Woman in Black (2012).  It stars my beloved Harry Potter--I'm sorry, Daniel Radcliffe--and a creepy friggin' ghost woman that keeps jumping out at the most inopportune moments.

The movie is based on a 1983 novel of the same name by Susan Hill about a young man, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), who has lost his wife four years ago and has been unable to recoup ever since.  He is on his last legs with his employer who gives him one last shot at retaining employment: travel to Crythin Gifford to settle up the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow.  What no one is willing to tell Mr. Potter--I mean, Kipps--is that Eel Marsh House is not only as drab as the former owner's name, but eerily haunted as well.

I didn't know the movie was a book until after watched it, but, me being me, I ran out and snagged a copy to read, just to say I had experienced both.  Oddly enough (and probably for the first time ever), I'm glad I watched the movie first.  Not because the book sucked, but because horror films and suspense thriller novels are two very different things.

Let me explain: we're talking a visual medium versus a written medium.  The written medium requires imagination whereas a film depicts the visuals for you.  The elements required to make a movie scary are decidedly unnecessary in a book.  The Woman in Black was much more suspenseful in that the reader gets an intimate, first-hand look into how Kipps is feeling.  It makes the scary moments much more compelling as he lingers at that door, deciding whether or not he should go in and discover what is making that loud THUMP THUMP THUMP-ing noise.  And of course, certain elements under which he encounters said ghost are lingering and more ominous.  For example, in the book, Kipps first sees the ghost at church, where you'd expect to be safe from such things, not at the house the way the movie depicts.  This scene, as it plays out in the book, would not have been as creepy in the movie.

Scary movies on the other hand rely entirely on the visual experience.  Odd goings-on in the main character's background that the audience can see but the character can't are necessary to keep the audience's interest.  I can't tell you how many times I yelled aloud, "Look out, Harry!"  (Snap, you know I meant Arthur.)  Or, "Don't go in there, what the H-E-double hockey sticks is wrong with you?!"  I jumped numerous times, huddled behind my pillow, and at one point, I turned the darn thing off, saying, "That's it, I'm friggin' scared."  My son came into the room toward the end of the movie and asked me, "Mommy, why are you hiding in the kitchen?" as I peeked precariously around the corner at the TV screen.

Needless to say at this point, both mediums scared the crap out of me.  I like scary movies that actually scare me.  A horror film that succeeds in being predictably unentertaining is a failure.  But to be genuinely anxious during a film (and then creeped out by it 48 hours afterward) is a win in my book.  The novel does the same by being foreboding and mysterious in all the right places, and filling in all the blanks the movie doesn't have the time to.  Are there obvious differences between the movie and the book?  There always are, but in this instance, you come to the other side thoroughly satisfied with both...even if your pants are a little more moist than when you started.


  1. OMG I LOVED THIS MOVIE! And the clip you included is probably one of the creepiest parts! I read somewhere the movie sucked compared to the book, but I'm glad you point out that movies and books in this genre are very different. Great post!

  2. Ok I took your advice and watched this over the wknd. What a goose indeed! Good thing I watched with friends! (It was girls night in.) And I kept calling him Harry too. People dont give him enough credit. He carries the movie practically by himself. Great acting, great movie, great post!