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Tag Archive: The Woman in Black


Review by C.J. Bunce

For a generation of film fans, the words “Hammer Horror” are synonymous with the first color horror movies and studio stars Peter Cushing and David Prowse, who would go on to find real fame in Star Wars, and Christopher Lee, who would be the go-to guy in the 21st century for dark, imposing characters in Peter Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien movies, James Bond, the Star Wars prequels, and much more.  Before these blockbusters, these British thespians made movies for a London film company called Hammer Film Productions, and they were instantly recognized as Baron Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, and Count Dracula.  These aren’t the famous monsters of Universal Studios fame, but thanks to Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures’ distribution, their take on these classic horror characters gained their own international fan following.  In time for Halloween, Telos Publishing has released a new information-filled guide for fans of Hammer’s horror legacy, writer Alistair Hughes’s Infogothic: An Unauthorised Graphic Guide to Hammer Horror.

As for the “graphic” in the title, it’s a bit of a play on words–think infographics, charts, diagrams, illustrations, and maps connecting the often intertwined fantasy world inside the Hammer films.  The titles to the studio’s Dracula and Frankenstein sequels provide an idea of the absurdity film goers were in for, with a list that makes the Planet of the Apes pile of sequels seem pretty short: The Brides of Dracula, Scars of Dracula, Kali–Devil Bride of Dracula, Dracula AD 1972, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein, The Horror of Frankenstein, The Evil of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Frankenstein Created Woman, and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.  Hammer also made monster movies set much earlier than the 19th century.  The most famous starred Raquel Welch in Ray Harryhausen’s One Million Years BC and Ursula Andress in She.  Steven Spielberg would later provide a nod to Hammer films at the end of Jurassic Park.  The words on the banner falling in the final sequence with the T-Rex was an homage to the Hammer film When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. 

One diagram in Infogothic recounts the 30 most famous actors to portray Dracula.  In others Hughes pieces together family trees based on information from the films for the Van Helsings and the Frankensteins.  A chart shows the number of adaptations of Frankenstein movies by decade (the 1970s wins with nine, and there has been 51 in all so far as we bask in the character’s 200th year).  Need to locate the story locations for each of the Hammer monster movies?  Hughes provides maps for that, too.  And Frankenstein’s monster and the Count aren’t the only monsters Hammer featured–the book includes interconnections of the several mummy movies and other creature features Hammer produced (The Gorgon, The Reptile, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, The Plague of the Zombies, The Abominable Snowman).  Hughes also includes details of lesser known and unproduced films throughout his book.

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Intruders

BBC America has been advertising the new series Intruders for months now but this extended trailer should be all you need to know this is a series pilot not to be missed.  So stick around after Doctor Who’s big premiere episode with the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi Saturday night.  It looks like Kate Hudson’s Skeleton Key and Daniel Radcliffe’s The Woman in Black meets Marchlands and Lightfields.

As thrillers go they got this preview right, with pretty heavy doses of creepy–just right for a late night show with the lights off.  How can they go wrong, with stars like John Simm–star of Life on Mars, one of the five best television series of all time–and Mira Sorvino, Oscar winner and versatile actress most recently dazzling us as a cop on Psych?  Add in James Frain and Robert Forster–Frain a more recent character actor showing up everywhere, and Forster a genre TV staple–and this show just begs to be seen.

Check out this extended preview for Intruders:

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Bates Motel

That’s right, Halloween is almost here.  This year we’ve been able to obtain an interview with one of the best horror writers around.  Who will it be?  Check back here on Halloween for a special borg.com interview.

For many, this week means tracking down spooky shows on Netflix, cable, or in the theaters.  Back in 2011 the four borg.com writers posted each of their top favorite Halloween flicks.  Since 2011 new films that fit the genre continue to be made, like The Woman in Black reviewed here last year, but there was also a few to skip, like Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows and John Cusack in The RavenThis year we were impressed by the totally fun and totally watchable Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and the over-the-top but fun Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  There are plenty of opportunities to get your fix of dark, spooky, creepy, or just plain scary movies.

ALVH-217 - Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) and his vampire-battling mentor Henry Sturgis (Dominic Cooper) plan their next move during a fateful battle with the undead.

One film available on Netflix we haven’t reviewed yet here at borg.com is 2009’s Orphan, which should appeal to fans of The Others and Skeleton KeyOrphan stars Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga and Skeleton Key’s Peter Sarsgaard as a couple adopting a third child into their family, played by the brilliant young actress Isabelle Furhman.  It also features Warehouse 13’s CCH Pounder and Genelle Williams–both as nuns.  Orphan is excellently creepy and an all-around good thriller worth checking out.  And speaking of Vera Farmiga, if you haven’t been watching Bates Motel, you should.  It’s a great creepy spin-off of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Season 1 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Orphan movie - creepy little girl

Here is the link to our Halloween movie series from 2011 where you can view all of our recommendations.  Some of the staples of Halloween horror did not make our lists, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw, Scream, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Amityville Horror.   Jaws got our joint highest ranking, making three of our lists, and The Shining, The Exorcist, The Exorcist 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Ring, and Paranormal Activity seem to rise above the rest, showing up on two lists.  Seaside locales were the favorite location for scares, with Jaws, Rebecca, The Birds, The Ring, The Fog (both the original and remake) all taking place there, and creepy little girls are the favorite subject of–count ‘em–NINE of our haunts (The Ring, The Exorcist, Let Me In, Paranormal Activity 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, Turn of the Screw, and The Others). And we can now add Orphan and The Woman in Black to that creepy assembly.  (We Are What We Are was due out this year–another creepy little girl story, but it’s only been released in the UK so far).  For us the supernatural won out over monsters, saws and axes.  Four movies were by John Carpenter, three by Alfred Hitchcock.  The oldest movie was Rebecca from 1940, the newest came out in 2011, Paranormal Activity 3And look, we’ve got another one of those available now, too.

Happy Halloween watching, and don’t forget to come back to see what we have in store Thursday!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Rupert Grint in Into the White

Harry Potter fans were happy to see Daniel Radcliffe break away from his successful wizard role and into his first major adult dramatic role in the creepy The Woman in Black one year ago.  It was a fun film that we reviewed here.  Now we finally get to see Rupert Grint, the actor who played Potter’s pal Ron Weasley, on the other side of the color spectrum in his first adult dramatic role in the World War II film Into the White.

Into the White poster

Norwegian Director Petter Næss has created a WWII film “inspired by a true story” and not based in an epic battle, but between two opposing airplane crews that shoot each other down over Grotli shortly after the beginning of the war.  Three Germans, played by Florian Lukas (Goodbye, Lenin!), David Kross (War Horse), and Stig Henrik Hoff (The Thing (2011)), and two Brits, played by Lachlan Nieboer (Downton Abbey, Torchwood) and Grint are stranded in the snow-covered mountains of Norway.  They find a cabin and must learn to deal with each other and survive the elements.  Less of a typical war movie and more of a struggle between opposite ideologies, this looks like you’ll find some battles over tensions and claustrophobia among the airmen.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Regular readers will recall that one of our most-anticipated films of the season opened this weekend.  The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and borg.com favorite Ciaran Hinds (everything!), is a classic ghost story set in the late Victorian era, and offers up plenty of spooky atmosphere and a handful of startling horror sequences, though ultimately nothing too terribly terrifying.

Based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill, and following a successful run as a play in London, The Woman in Black recounts the tale of Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a young, widowed solicitor hired to settle the affairs at the creepy, isolated Eel Marsh House in the equally creepy village of Crythin Gifford.  The film opens in true gothic fashion, with the young protagonist’s journey into a landscape that is both literally and metaphorically haunting and despondent.  Here, the unearthly fenlands and heavy-handed Victorian furnishings are used to excellent effect, setting the scene for a tale of loss and decrepitude.

From his arrival in Crythin Gifford, Kipps is made bluntly unwelcome by nearly everyone he meets: his innkeeper, his local employment office, and the brooding villagers in turn.  Only Mr. Daily (Hinds), a worldly stranger he meets on the train, makes any effort at friendship or hospitality, and will become a welcome ally during the course of the film.  Finally at work at Eel Marsh, Kipps discovers a house with a secret, suffused not just with damp and cobwebs, but with old memories and desperate grief turned to vengeance.  As Kipps works in the mansion, the titular Woman in Black works her deadly influence on the villagers.

Since a great deal of the fun of a good ghost story is the unraveling of the backstory (and, even more importantly, since that backstory makes up about 80% of the plot here), we won’t reveal more about the actual storyline.  Purists will want to note that apparently the story presented in the film is a rather sharp departure from that of the novel, so consider yourself prepared.

This is a gothic-styled ghost story (with actual ghosts), in the vein of The Others or The Turn of the Screw, so it relies on building an unsettling atmosphere, more than in depicting graphic horror.  The scares here are along the lines of what we saw in The Sixth Sense, although sadly, if you’ve seen the previews, you’ve already seen essentially every startling scene.  There is one brief moment of gore, hardly enough to warrant the PG-13 rating (though more sensitive viewers may find the plot sufficient for that).  The story is likewise somewhat thin and fairly predictable–yet The Woman in Black managed to deliver an ending I found immensely satisfying.

The highlight of the movie (aside from the incredibly grim Victorian set dressing at Eel Marsh, which deserves attention come awards season) was probably the performance handed in by veteran British character actor Ciaran Hinds.  Playing the only villager willing to confide in Kipps, Hinds adds a needed gravity to the film as a man of reason, determined to deal with his grief on his own terms.

If you’re looking for scares galore, graphic gore, and a film that will propel you screaming from your seats–this isn’t that movie.  If you’re a fan of costume dramas; misty, foggy landscapes; and traditional hauntings borne from compelling backstory, you’ll probably find The Woman in Black worth the ticket price.

Whether you’re into sci-fi, fantasy, super-heroes, or spies, 2012 is gearing up to be a good year for genre movie releases. What’s our top 10 most eagerly awaited genre films?  Here’s a countdown to the one film we can hardly wait to see:

10.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.*  Already in limited release at the tail end of 2011, this spy movie, a remake of the 1974 film based on the novel by John LeCarre, couldn’t have more promise for its all-star cast of Britain’s best: Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actor, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Pride and Prejudice, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love) Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Harry Potter series,  The Fifth Element) Ciaran Hinds (The Woman in Black, Phantom of the Opera, Road to Perdition, Sum of All Fears), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Green Lantern), John Hurt (V for Vendetta, Hellboy, Harry Potter series, Skeleton Key, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, The Elephant Man, Rob Roy, Contact), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Amazing Grace, The Hobbit).

9.  The Dark Knight Rises. Rounding out the latest trilogy of Batman movies, this one hints at the death of Batman in the trailer and advance posters.  It’s Batman, so we’re going to see this one, but the franchise is getting a bit stale.  If not for Gary Oldman’s perfect performances in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as Commissioner Gordon, this one might not make the top 10 list.  Then again, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is reason enough to see this one.  What we really want for Batman?  A film version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

8.  Men in Black III.  Although we liked him most recently as a codger of an officer in Captain America: The First Avenger, Tommy Lee Jones’s roles seem to be pretty similar.  We were surprised at how good the trailer for the new Men in Black movie looks, even with Jones reprising the role he has played twice.  For Jones and Will Smith to reprise their roles yet again, but with a trip to the past for Smith’s Agent J, this may be the first time we like a genre prequel.

7.  Total Recall.  When there are so many Philip K. Dick stories to adapt for the big screen, it’s a little strange that someone would opt to redo the short story “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” when it seems like the original came out only yesterday.  Still, if it’s anything like Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, and early production photos seem to indicate that to be the case, we may have a really stylistic view of the future coming soon.

6.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  It was easy for viewers to laugh off the first G.I. Joe live action movie, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, but we think the movie was a blast, handling both the comic book and animated series universe, the classic story of the original 12-inch Joe action figures, and the small-sized action figures.  With the new trailer just released for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, we’re just as excited to see our two favorite tough guys, Dwayne (formerly The Rock) Johnson, and Bruce Willis taking on the G.I. Joe mantle, with Willis as the original Joe Colton.

5.  The Avengers.  After years of DC Comics movies outdoing their Marvel Comics counterparts, last year the pendulum finally swung in favor of Marvel, with the super Captain America: The First Avenger film matching the first Iron Man in quality.  Finally bringing them together with Thor and The Hulk is way overdue.  But the character we really can’t wait to see more of is Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.

4.  Brave.  Animated movies tend to showcase female characters as cutesy, dressed in pink, damsels being rescued, usually, by some dim-witted guy.  It’s about time we have an animated film about a gal with a mind of her own, wielding her own sword.  And the fact that she is performed by Kelly McDonald and her cool Scottish accent makes us want to see this film that much more.

3.  Skyfall.  We haven’t seen a trailer for this one yet. Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale was a contender for best-ever James Bond film, but the follow-up Quantum of Solace didn’t really deliver the punch we all wanted. Whatever this new film will be about, we don’t care, as we love Bond and at the end of each movie when we see “James Bond will return” it just starts the waiting again.

2.  The Woman in Black.  In part because we just want to see what both Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe do following the end of the Potter series, in part because we love a good ghost story, and in part because this trailer may be the best one released this year, we can hardly wait to see The Woman in Black. Eerie, cool with Radcliffe playing an adult role, we hope this will be as good as it looks.

1.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Not since the original Star Wars trilogy had we seen a more significant fantasy series than Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series.  The original story from Middle Earth has been read and loved more than any of Tolkien’s works, and for it finally to hit the screen is not only a miracle because of production issues, we’re lucky all the original cast members from the Lord of the Rings series are still around and interested in reprising their roles from the Oscar winning series for Best Picture and a roster of other awards.  Although the first trailer released wasn’t all that exciting, since Peter Jackson is in charge again, we’re certain this film will deliver as promised.

Based on trailers and early release photos, we’ll also keep an eye out for the following genre films, although, as noted here previously, we think some of the trailers make us want to avoid a few of these instead of get excited to see them: Prometheus, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Amazing Spider-man, The Hunger Games, and Man of Steel.

*Update: Don’t miss our January 8, 2012, opening weekend review.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com