The Woman in Black (2012)

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Released 19-Sep-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama/Horror Featurette-Behind The Scenes-No Fear : Daniel Radcliffe on Arthur Kipps (3:54)
Theatrical Trailer-Lockout (1:28) : 2.35:1, 16x9
Theatrical Trailer-Magic Mike (2:24) : 2.35:1, 16x9
Theatrical Trailer-Killer Joe (2:20) : 1.78:1, 16x9
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 91:36
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By James Watkins
Studio
Distributor
Hammer Productions
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Ciaran Hinds
Janet McTeer
Sophie Stuckey
Misha Handley
Jessica Raine
Roger Allam
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Crucial action pre-credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Undoubtedly the major interest factor with The Woman in Black is in the casting of Daniel Radcliffe. This young actor must be admired for his obvious determination to create an acting life for himself beyond that of Harry Potter. Prior to making the final instalments of the Potter franchise, at age seventeen Radcliffe revealed considerable dramatic talent, as well as every inch of his anatomy, on-stage in Equus, both in London and New York. In 2007 he appeared in the low-budget Australian drama, December Boys, and impressed critics in TV's My Boy Jack, in which he played the son of Rudyard Kipling. Despite rumours that the on-stage Equus nudity might mean the end of his involvement with the Harry Potter movies, Radcliffe returned for Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, and both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In 2011, with Harry Potter behind him, Radcliffe sang and danced on Broadway as the star of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Now, in 2012 Daniel Radcliffe is the star of Hammer's spooky thriller, The Woman in Blackplaying not only an adult, but a grieving widower and a devoted father. Although his miscasting hampers the early scenes of the film, once we are into the chilling meat of the drama the young actor more than satisfies as the protagonist of one of the most chilling film experiences of recent memory.

     In Edwardian England young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is under threat of dismissal from his firm. Grieving for his deceased young wife, Kipps has been an unsatisfying employee and is given one more chance to redeem himself. He is sent to the remote village of Cryphin Gifford to examine documents relating to Eel Marsh House, the deceased estate of one Mrs Drablow. Arthur leaves his young son, Joseph (Misha Hardley), with his Nanny, and on the train is befriended by a resident of Cryphin Gifford, Mr Daily (Ciaran Hinds of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Other villagers are less friendly, and after some difficulty Arthur finally reaches Eel Marsh House, remote and only accessible when tides are low. He discovers that Eel Marsh House is haunted by a vengeful ghost, the woman of the title, who terrorises the locals and occasionally selects a village child to lead to his or her death. The plot follows Arthur as he attempts to unravel the source of the ghost's wrath and free the villagers from her terror.

     Only after viewing the film did I learn that this film was directed by James Watkins, the man who helmed that genuinely disturbing thriller Eden Lake. Once again the elements of suspense and terror are grippingly handled by this most promising director. There are quite a few genuine frights in the film, and the shock does not depend on blood and gore. This is a genuine emotional thriller. Unfortunately the soundtrack punctuates most of the shocks with the clichéd "KA-THUNK" on the soundtrack, a gimmick which this film does not need. Benefitting from using the famous Pinewood Studios, the beautifully created atmosphere of the forbidding old house is superbly created and photographed with imaginative use of the full anamorphic image. The lighting, sets, set decoration are all superb, bringing to mind that similarly spine-tinglingly spooky horror-piece, The Innocents. It is in these claustrophobic set pieces that the movie soars - well, almost soars. But it is darned good, and Daniel Radcliffe is wildly enjoyable, his huge eyes registering eye popping terror in searing close-up. Technically the film is excellent, without ever resorting to gimmickry and is further enhanced by the string-laden score from Marco Beltrami (The Hurt Locker).

     The script from Jane Goldman (X-Men : First Class) is literate and terse, based on the novel by Susan Hall. There was an earlier screen version of the novel, for UK TV in 1989, but curiously there is no mention in the credits of the 1987 two-hander London stage adaptation. This production is still running after twenty-five years, making it London's second longest running straight play. That record still belongs, and probably always will belong, to The Mousetrap, over sixty years and still counting. In 1991 I was lucky enough to see a production of The Woman in Black at the Sydney opera House, starring Richard Todd (A Man Called Peter).

     The Woman in Black is not great, but it most definitely is a beautifully crafted, spookily frightening ghost tale. The diminutive star creates a sympathetic, dramatically strong protagonist and is surrounded by class in every department - an excellent supporting cast, superb technical art and craft and strong, expert direction. Add to this a transfer that could almost pass as Blu-ray, and The Woman in Black on DVD is one of the most enjoyable horror/thrillers of the past decade.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This is one of the best standard DVDs I have seen.

     The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio.

     The picture is extremely sharp and clear throughout, with wonderful detail in close-ups, intricate interiors and grand exteriors. The colour is rather muted, with a predominantly blue/grey hue which is sustained impeccably. Within this palette skin tones are excellent. Shadow detail is particularly impressive, which greatly enhances the many dimly lit sequences. Daniel Radcliffe's expressions are clearly defined, even when his face is completely in shadow.

     The only flaw I could see in the image was minor aliasing on a cottage roof (35:11) and what looked like dubious rear projection utilised in a car sequence with Radcliffe and Hinds. Apart from these instances the image is about as good as standard DVD gets.

     There are subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired. These are very good, and are presented in white only, centred at the foot of the image.

     There is a clunky layer change (70:00) with a lengthy freeze of image at the end of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is excellent totally complementing the classy image.

     This disc contains two soundtrack options, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded and Dolby Digital 5.1.

     Dialogue is brilliantly clear without any sync problems, and is basically front and centred. There is, however, ample use of the complete surround system to immerse us in the spooky environment of Eel Marsh House. Voices and other eerie effects tantalise us from the corners of the sound field, while the subwoofer frequently adds threatening rumbles and thuds. Wonderfully adding to the aural experience is Marco Beltrami's atmospherically haunting score, which also utilises the bass most effectively.

     There is an Audio Description for the Vision Impaired, delivered by a youngish male voice. While not over-emoting, the delivery is a little more lively than most.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is little on offer as far as extras are concerned.

Menu

     The menu is presented using video game styled graphics, with music from the score and assorted spooky sound effects.

Making-of Featurette : No Fear : Daniel Radcliffe on Arthur Kipps (3:54)

     This could hardly be any briefer, presenting Radcliffe talking about the challenges of the film - and the pleasure of working with his young godson - as well as brief praise for the star from his director, screenwriter and co-actor Ciaran Hinds. This most certainly leaves us wanting more. Presented with a mix of 2.35:1 snippets from the film and 1.78:1 interview footage, all in excellent quality.

Start-up Trailers (6:12)

     Lockout (1:28): presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Magic Mike (2:24): presented 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, Killer Joe (2:20): presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. All three are excellent quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The local releases misses out on :

* Commentary by the director and the screenwriter

* Inside the Perfect Thriller : Making The Woman in Black

* Spanish Subtitles.

    Personally, I like this film so much that I would definitely consider purchasing the Region 1 release - if I was sure the image quality would equal that of our local release.

Summary

     The Woman in Black is a darned good horror/ghost tale, with enough genuine frights to keep you on the edge of your seat. Daniel Radcliffe ultimately makes us forget his physical miscasting as his sensitive performance engrosses us in the tale, photographed with immaculate style and technique. This is just a heartbeat off being first-class. Image and sound are brilliant, but a pity about the extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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