You might not know this about me, but I’m a huge horror movie geek. My love of the genre started at 13 with Phantasm (watched from the floor of my living room with my mom as we celebrated my entry to womanhood with lots of chocolate, a heating pad, and a horror movie marathon) and has endured to this day, despite the stunningly shitty horror movies flooding the theaters lately. I do dig bad horror from the 60s and 70s, though, and have lately come to adore Hammer horror flicks like Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Vampire Circus. When I heard that Hammer was coming out with its first new movie since the 70s, I was beyond excited. The Man shares my love of horror flicks, so it was decided early that when The Woman in Black hit the theaters, we would definitely be in attendance.
We waited awhile to go see the movie, hoping that crowds would die down and we’d get to view it in a relatively empty (read: quiet) theater. Finally this Thursday we decided to chance it, and were lucky enough to be the first in the theater. We picked the best seats, half way up and in the middle, and were happy to find that only about eight more people came in. One couple left midway through the movie, so that was even better! Overall, I really enjoyed it. The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, and though I loved the HP franchise, Radcliffe proved here that he deserves to escape typecasting. He was very believable as a depressed widower who has entered into a very difficult situation. The movie is based on a 1983 book of the same name, in which a lawyer in turn of the century England is sent out to a desolate house the middle of nowhere to settle the affairs of a deceased widow. He finds that the small town is cursed, and suffers greatly at the hands of the ghost who haunts the house he’s trying to sell. As is often the case, the movie has been adapted a bit, changing some of the plot points while keeping the basic story the same. Even so, the chills and thrills of the movie take a direct departure from anything we’ve seen in the last few years – no gore (a little blood), a detailed and interesting backstory, and what I found to be a believable and terrifying haunting, with some twists that were unexpected. The sets and costumes were lovely, and it was fun pointing out the similarities and differences of this installment to earlier Hammer flicks. I hope they keep going with this.
After a day of reflection on various points of the movie, and dealing with a nagging feeling that I somehow knew this story, last night I came to a stunning realization. I haven’t read the original book, so I’m not sure how the scenes of children and the woman in black differ between book and movie, but in the movie version, many points have an uncanny connection to my favorite Edward Gorey book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Here I’m torn between my respect for film and not wanting to ruin the story, and wanting to point out the similarities. I don’t believe I’ll be ruining anything for you to say that the movie has much to do with the untimely passing of children, and that quite a few of them die in Gorey-fashion. If you’re intrigued, look up Desmond, James, Maude, Quentin, Rhoda and Victor. Even more creepy (or funny, if you’re of the mind that Hammer paid tribute to Gorey with this work) is the cover illustration of the doomed tinies with the skeletal nanny figure in the background. One scene echoes this image so closely that it seems impossible they didn’t draw their own connection during filming. I couldn’t find the exact image I was looking for, but here’s a theatrical poster that’s a tad hint at the movie scene, if much less frightening.
While the movie and Gorey’s book have next to nothing in common, other than many unfortunate kids, this realization makes me strangely happy. How else would a theatrical version of The Gashlycrumb Tinies ever be allowed? Now, if only someone could make a movie of The Epipleptic Bicycle, I’d turn cartwheels of joy.