The Woman In Black (1989)

Directed by Herbert Wise

A made-for-TV British movie, The Woman in Black is a ghost story set in the Victorian period.

A young solicitor, a married man with young children and very much a family man, is sent by his employer to a small village to wrap up the legal work on a recently deceased woman’s estate.

As it turns out, there is a ghost in the town, particularly at the house the young lawyer ends up staying in (or tries to stay in). The town is not a particularly friendly one and, with the exception of one man, seems to only be waiting for the young man to leave. They are content to live with their ghost and the consequences.

(The consequences are the untimely deaths of young children.)

Almost as soon as the young man arrives in the town, he begins to see a woman dressed in black. He senses an anger, even a hate coming from her. Later, he comes to realize that her appearance coincides with the death, or near-death, of children. (The young man prevents one early in the film.)

The movie, however, is a bit slow and plodding. While it does work well at developing the atmosphere for movies of this kind, it almost seems more interested in showing us the period. The story unfolds very slowly. It as cinematic exposition that takes far too long. Once the story does get going, it’s pretty good at creating its frightening scenes and pulling us into its mystery.

But like The Watcher in the Woods, it falls down when it comes to the ending. Its resolution is to have no resolution; rather, it emphasizes the nastiness of its ghost. In fact, I think the filmmakers are more interested in showing us the nastiness of the period and use their ghost as a way of epitomizing it.

Ultimately, though it has its good moments, The Woman in Black is a disappointing and disagreeable experience. Especially given its lengthy exposition, you can’t help feeling cheated – “I sat through all that for this?”

Also note: the image quality is poor. This is due to the period the film was made (1983) and the poor film quality (source material).

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