Monday, 6 January 2014

Hammer's Hill

I finally got round to watching the recent Hammer adaptation of Susan Hill's THE WOMAN IN BLACK over Christmas.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK is, in my opinion, one of the very few novels that manages to make a ghost story work at that length.  There are many great creepy short stories and the odd novella, but it is a very hard trick to pull off in a novel.  Even Susan Hill herself has found it difficult to repeat.

There was a very good - or I remember it as very good - television adaptation many years ago, and there has of course been a very successful stage version in the meantime.  This adaptation seems to have divided critics and my own friends - some love it, some not so much.  I saw it on DVD and by all accounts, it was much better at the cinema.

It is as hard to make a genuinely creepy movie as it is to write a genuinely creepy novel - so most directors don't try, they simply try to make you jump.  I loved the opening few minutes.  The three girls silently walking to the window and throwing themselves out was wonderfully unsettling and dreamlike, but there weren't enough moments like that.  The Woman in Black herself glimpsed fleetingly in the shadows and a spectral boy climbing out of the mud to approach the house were nice and creepy - and the look of the whole was nice - muted colours and nice locations, but it fell into the trap of going from one 'Boo!' moment to the next.  The problem with that is that by the time you reach the end it will almost always appear a bit weak.  As it did here.

Unlike the ending of the novel, which is every bit as strong as the premise.  And that's a hard trick to pull off.

It wasn't a bad movie - and it did have a real Hammer feel about it (and I mean that in a good way) and it was so much better than many of its kind - simply by dint of being rooted in such a good story - but it could have been much better.  It could have been troubling.  The television adaptation has clung to me ever since like a bad memory.  I will have forgotten this one in a few weeks.


  1. Wondering if you saw The Conjuring. I thought it was surprisingly good coming from a director of "torture porn" films. The scares let up at the end, but I'm kinda glad they did since I was watching most of the first half through my fingers.

  2. No I haven't - though it is kind of on my list. It does look good. Although I suspect it is another 'jumper' rather than a 'creeper'. What I think is hard is for a film to deliver is that sinking feeling in your gut - the sense of dread you might feel in a nightmare or even in real life. Very, very few movies have ever pulled that off.