The Woman in Black: A Review of the Movie by a Fan of the Book

When I saw the first trailer for The Woman in Black I was excited; I love the book and jumped at the chance to reread it before seeing the film. I anxiously awaited the movie release and today a friend and I saw it in matinee. Within the first half-hour I was annoyed and by the end I was angry. Don’t get me wrong, the movie had GREAT creep factor: seriously spooky moments, frightening ghosts, and terrific props. The set designers did a bang-up job, down to the soot marks on the wallpaper from the candles in the sconces. The location scout picked the perfect house/town/landscape. They changed the time-period to good effect, because 1950s England wouldn’t be nearly as spooky a place for a ghost story as Victorian/Edwardian England and the book reads like a Victorian gothic novel so it’s appropriate. However, the scriptwriter screwed up the story in so many ways it would be easier for me to say what I like vs. what I despise. If Susan Hill were dead, she’d be rolling in her grave. I think she might be rolling in her bed at night, disturbed by what they did with her book.


My biggest complaint is that they turned a good Gothic ghost story into Victorian melodrama by twisting some of the events to unnecessarily heighten the drama. For instance, in the novel, Arthur Kipps is not going to Eel Marsh House as a last-ditch effort to save his job, which has suffered from his depression after the death of his wife in childbirth. Although in the beginning of the book he is not married, I understand why this, among other things, has been changed for dramatization: in the book he marries at the end and it takes a few years for the events of the story to manifest themselves in his life (no spoilers!). That time lapse is difficult to convey in a movie, so it makes sense to have him married with a son at the beginning of the film. But why have his wife die in childbirth? Why add a scene with his boss threatening to fire him for being dead weight? I will say, without ruining anything, they change the end quite a bit; his wife must be dead in the beginning so they can add more ridiculous melodrama to the end. Every change made in the script was overwrought and fell flat in execution.


 I could sit here all day and nitpick over what I feel is a blasphemous rewrite of a great story, but that’s boring and you get my point. I am unable to describe the more ridiculous moments because it will ruin the movie for those of you who still want to see it. If you don’t care about a plot-line that is so absurd it insults your intelligence, then by all means, see this film. Visually it’s impressive, the acting is good, and the scares are well-timed and 95% not cheesy. The script is awful, however, except in the very few parts where they left the original story intact.

–Shannon Baker

One comment

  1. Amazing, I have read a few reviews and none have mentioned all these anomalies, I just finished the book and loved it, but won’t be seeing the film because I know it will just exhaust me and now you have given me quite a few other reasons. But I’m looking forward to reading more from Susan Hill, she’s a fabulous writer.

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