Thursday 12 November 2009
One Of Those Moments - "The Woman In Black"
The Woman In Black (1989 - Herbert Wise)
Previous posts in this series have concentrated on moments of heartfelt emotion, but I thought it was time to look at a different kind of moment - one that kinda stops your breathing for a second, sends a chill down the old spine and raises the hairs on your arms.
Mike over at Mellotron Sounds recommended The Woman In Black to me as a good addition to my horror viewing for the month of October. Though I missed that window, I caught up with it just this past week. He was right - it's a solid creepy ghost story.
Starting out very much like a British turn-of-the-century period drama, the story starts to delve into the murky waters of a particular incident that occurred in the marsh surrounding the mansion of a recently passed away old woman. The lawyer responsible for cleaning up the estate's affairs makes a trip to the town nearby and discovers a population of people not overly eager to discuss the mansion - especially when he mentions his sighting of a woman in black at the funeral. There also appear to be an inordinate amount of children's gravestones in the local cemetery. The central performance by Adrian Rawlins isn't quite strong enough to withstand all the screen time he has, but the story is intriguing and contains some disquieting moments.
After returning from the mansion and several "encounters" with its remaining presences, the young lawyer is resting in his hotel bed when he is finds a little toy soldier which has dogged him the last few days. He feels that the ghost of a young boy named Nathaniel has come to visit and thinks that perhaps the little boy wants to show himself. He asks with a smile "Nathaniel?":
A shadow looms over him and in response to the question he gets this:
The stills don't quite get across the "Holy crap" feeling I got when I saw it. The slow movement towards the camera is matched with a piercing, eerie scream that is unsettling in how relentless it is. There's a couple of cutaways to the solicitor's frightened reaction (as per the top screencap), but otherwise that hovering woman keeps coming closer and closer and won't stop screaming. Originally made for and aired on British TV, I can imagine numerous households cringing and recoiling on their couches.
It's a bit reminiscent of this scene from Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Retribution (though the sound field is used in a different manner). A direct, unwavering gaze that slowly but steadily approaches you with a feeling that it might actually go through you. That's a hair-raising moment.