The heart of the story is that of a sad tale wherein a woman is kept separated from her only child, who tragically dies at a young age in a very horrible way. Heartbroken, the woman commits suicide. Such is the agony of her separation that her spirit lingers to haunt the very walls that once was her abode.
The ghost is consumed by an absolute rage at what has happened to her life and that of her child. The legend, as explained later by Mrs. Bentley, goes that whenever the ghost is spotted by someone, for however fleeting moment of time it may be, this is always followed by the death of a child in a most ghastly manner.
The usual movie sentiment that innocent children would never come to harm ends the moment we see a young girl vomiting blood and die. There is no dearth to the number of kids that are getting killed. There is some limitation to the scenes of violence amidst which they die; for example, the intro scene in which three girls jump off a building is not shown in a gory manner. But there are some that do make it a bad watch for even young adults – like the fire scene where a girl douses herself with fuel and walks casually into the fire!
Moving away from all this is the character of Mr. Kipps played by Radcliffe that is anything but violent. His own personal concerns make him not leave the village when he is warned and gets a chance or two. He mentions at one point that he didn’t believe in spiritualism till his wife passed away; so his actions, when he realizes he’s in a haunted house, do not show the kind of emotions that an overtly superstitious fellow may portray; but instead he plays into the usual trap that so many other characters in ghost movies have played – run “head first” into trouble.
The audience is given more glimpses of the woman in black than the chief character itself and this plays subtly in our minds. There are points at the movie where you feel the central character has taken it too far for a normal human being; that’s when we feel the lack of emotions are hurting the screenplay. There is an instance where he clearly sees a ghostly figure in the window from downstairs and instead of running the other way, decides to explore the very room where he saw it. From hereon, the ghost is no longer just shadows or creepy noises.
The movie is in full swing when it dawns upon him that his own son maybe the next kid to die. He takes the help of an equally stoic Bentley – what are the odds of two such characters being at the same place at the same time! They retrieve the corpse of the child (of the poltergeist) from a marsh – a scene well executed!
An untouchable spirit is more haunting than a decaying corpse. This is perhaps shown clearly towards the final moments of this film, at the mansion, when we await the arrival of the ghost whilst her son’s body is laid down in a makeshift bed surrounded by all his favorite physical objects. Tranquility is more unnerving that all sounds effects at a scene like this and this play of the human mind is quite well employed when we see the lady enter, scream and leave everything as it was. The lady and her son are finally laid to rest together.
Alas! Not all things go as planned for young Kipps and he’s reunited with his kid momentarily (at a railway station) before the unexpected happens. Souls as restless as the one in this film can never be at peace and indeed, the veiled lady goes for the kill. The climax is a mixed bag – neither is it the happy ending one wishes for (after seeing the hero go through such an ordeal to make amends) nor is it too sad to leave one depressed.
Overall a good watch if you go with the expectation of seeing an old fashioned ghost film. There is nothing new in the thrills and spooky scenes, but their timing, frequency and the overall balanced effect is what will stand out in this movie.
My rating for “The Woman in Black (2012)”: