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"A problem I am increasingly encountering when watching horror movies is that I am often completely unafraid of the images passing by onscreen. In some respects that is understandable considering most of the films I watch really are not attempting to scare the viewer. Gallons of blood and yet another knife wielding psycho has been done so many times that a body popping out of a closet or the old "stalk and slash" routine rarely raise a hair on my neck. Fortunately, I occasionally run across something that does rise above the mass to deliver profoundly scary thrills. Moreover, these movies, and there are not many of them, usually accomplish this feat without significant bloodshed. "The Woman in Black" is one of these rarities, an obscure, made for television British picture that plays like an old time ghost story replete with scary sound effects, malevolent apparitions, and a chilling back story. This is grim stuff, and you are a lost cause if the ending doesn't make you sit up and take note. Some American cable channel really ought to start showing this one every Halloween.Young attorney Arthur Kidd is a quite likeable fellow; he is a bright young man dedicated to his job, has an attractive young wife, two lovely children, and enjoys the company of his fellow man. Unlike most of the stodgy fogies at his law firm, he will take a few minutes out of his day to talk to lowly law clerks even though his boss constantly upbraids him for such unprofessional behavior. In what feels like a punishment for Kidd's continued insubordination in this regard, the senior partner in the firm orders Arthur to go to the village of Crythin Gifford where an important client recently died. It is the young lawyer's job to secure the recently deceased's papers at a place called Eel-Marsh House, however long that takes, and report back to the home office. The entire job shouldn't take more than a week, but the assignment bothers Arthur nonetheless because it means a lengthy separation from his family. He goes, though, because he hopes to secure a rapid advance within the firm. Initially, few indications exist that this mission to a misty little village in the middle of nowhere contains a horror beyond time and space.The first indication something is very wrong with this new situation occurs when Arthur sees an ominous figure, a woman clad entirely in black, during a visit to a cemetery in the village. Seeing a person standing around in mourning attire in a burial ground certainly shouldn't raise too many red flags, but there is something about this woman that gives Kidd a bad feeling. Further signs of trouble arise when the attorney encounters several locals, including one of the village elders, who express reservations about Arthur's mission in town. It seems that nearly everyone avoids the Eel-Marsh house on the outskirts of the town, but good old Kidd knows that is exactly where he must go to do his job. He secures transportation to the house, learns the floor plan and how to turn on the lights, and sets about his work. Eerie events happen almost immediately upon his arrival. Kidd hears the most horrible screams and sounds of a buggy splashing into the water out on the road heading to the house, and he even sees that enigmatic woman in black again on the grounds. A room within the house, unreachable because of a door impervious to all attempts to gain entry, provides further creepy situations. As Arthur slowly unearths the terrors of the abandoned estate, he learns more than any human should about the paranormal and its potentialities in the world of the living. The last twenty minutes or so of "The Woman in Black" slap you in the face with shock after shock, and just when you think it is finally over the last nightmare unfolds with devastating effectiveness.There really isn't any way to prepare yourself for this film. My girlfriend, who walked in about twenty minutes into the film and watched it to the end, claimed that it wasn't all that scary. But I hold a different view, especially concerning a scene where Arthur lies in bed recovering from his stay at the house and finally sees the woman in black up close and personal followed by the last minute of the movie. I can still see that quiet little lake and what Arthur sees standing some distance from the boat containing himself and his wife. If the woman in black and all of her attendant menace do little for you, there is still the oppressive atmosphere that hangs heavy over nearly every scene in the film. The Eel-House is your typical mist shrouded house on the coast: dank, dark, and burdened with horrible secrets. I consider myself a brave, do anything type of person, but there is no way I would spend any time in that house alone. It is simply too creepy for words. The only significant failing of this film is its noticeable television feel. Some of the production values don't come off as well as they could and the editing founders in a few places, but these are minor problems considering the picture as a whole. It is light years better than most of the pap passed off as entertainment these days. Regrettably, the transfer quality on the DVD is mediocre, with its often jiggling and color soft picture. Despite these small difficulties, "The Woman in Black" succeeds in presenting the viewer with a classic ghost story that is frequently the equivalent of pouring a bucket of icy water on your head."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the one and only film that I've felt compelled to comment on in Amazon. With a modest budget and BBC tv-movie production values, the filmmakers have crafted a masterpiece -- a ghost story that easily rivals the original "Haunting" and any other like film you can name. A strong mood is struck from the opening scene and the stakes rise throughout the film. Your nerves are slowly tweaked by subtle terrifying incidents until the penultimate visceral moment of horror -- the effects of which haunt you well beyond the disturbing ending.The film is more effective than both the hit London play and Susan Hill's original novel, which is really saying something, as both are wonderful in their own right. It's truly a great shame that this shining example of the genre is relatively unknown. Hopefully I have done a little to rectify this by writing this review. I strongly believe that any fan of ghost stories would not want to miss this."
Olve Askim | Norway | 06/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film on TV about ten years ago, late at night, home alone, in a big house. The perfect setting for a perfect scary movie. And till this date it is film which scared me the most.I was happy to know that this little gem finally found its way to VHS and DVD. It was made for TV like other films of its kind. Most of them you'll never find again and nothing like this, for a strange reason, ever gets made for the big screen.Monsters, blood and gore never frightened me. The common horror film is usually dull and packed with clichés. You know exactly what's gonna happen and when you'll jump. There are no surprises. They are simply not scary. The Woman in Black is something else. It's a victorian ghost story! I don't want to get into the details, but you'll meet a young man staying alone in a huge haunted house far from people. There are weird things happening there, there are strange sounds, and it's the woman in black; the pale ghost of an old woman dressed in black who you'll usually see just standing still like a pole in the distance staring with red rimmed eyes and an evil look on her face. Gone is the gore and the blood, the action and the special effects, thank God. The film is actually very slow paced. But you'll be on the edge of your seat. You'll know the woman is around, you'll be looking for her, but you'll never know when or where she'll show up. And usually she shows up when you least expect it. This is clever film making, a film from a director who knows exactly how to play with your feelings and fears and psychologicaly push you to the limit before he gets you from behind. You'll have to watch it to know what I mean, but I can assure you that you, atleast once, will be shocked so much your limbs will turn cold with fear and shivering for another couple of minutes or ten.... I wish there were more of this kind."
I'm happy to find this excellent, terrifying movie on tape.
Gregory Miller | 07/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back when 'The Woman in Black' first aired on television six years ago, I saw it twice. Until happily finding and buying it off Amazon last week, I had not seen it again (although I have been wanting to own it for years). Just as I expected, despite the number of years that have passed, its performance this time around reinforced my previous opinion that it is, perhaps, the most effective ghost story put to film. Forget gore or unnecessary special effects...They aren't needed. It just goes to show that a large budget isn't needed to make a fine film, and that one doesn't have to be beaten over the head with special effects to get the point. I find it a shame that this movie is not available in many video stores, because it certainly deserves a broader circulation."
This Is A Genuinely Chilling Horror Film
Mr. Christopher Evans | Nottingham, Nottinghamshire United Kingdom | 04/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this movie here in the U.K. in December 1989 when Central TV broadcast it. I still have the video tape, although worn out (over the years many friends and family members have borrowed it and have also been chilled!). Anyway, I remember coming home that night, grabbing a Christmas tipple, switching the lights out and watching what was advertised as a 'Christmas Ghost Story'. Oh boy...even now I remember certain scenes that still send the hairs on my neck standing on-end...When Arthur sees The Woman In Black on the marshes at Eel Marsh House...when he is given the toy soldier in the nursery (hitherto locked... but opens alone), the ghostly screams of the pony and trap crashing into the marsh from the causeway and when Arthur is in bed at the Gifford Arms. Now, some of the posts I read here give it a low rating....hmmm...I can really only guess at why...This is a 'traditional' ghost story; there is no big budget action or special effects...no swearing, no blood, no gratuitous sex scenes, no chainsaws or guns etc...So how refreshing!!!! IF you like chilling horror, well written, well acted and with a genuinely scary atmosphere, this is the movie for you. I too like the original horrors; only last night I saw the original Haunting and that is a superb movie. Very atmospheric again - and so is The Woman In Black. The end of the movie differs to the book, but still very good. Well, looking at the other good judges on here, I think the recommendation speaks for itself. And it *is* recommended! Try it...you *will* like it if you like traditional ghost stories...SO...turn off the lights, turn up the fire, lock the doors, grab a drink...and enjoy... :)"