Erin Ward Considers The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Words by Erin Michelle

Published on November 12, 2012

Usually I watch horror movies at home with the lights on so I can bail if it gets too scary. By usually I mean that one time I watched The Ring a decade ago. However, I saw The Woman in Black  in cinemas because the trailer suggested high production values and Daniel Radcliffe. The plot involves a lawyer having encounters with a ghostly apparition in a disused mansion and by god I was freaked. My friend Sam was there too, tolerating my naivety, and being an authority on ghost stories. Having read the book, he was well positioned to inform me of a variety of differences between it and the screen adaptation. He said that, in the book, the villagers are more chill with the protagonist’s arrival. They’re the kind of people who take the ‘ignore’ approach to the suspicious circumstances of local childrens’ deaths. It’s only a matter of time before taboo subjects are alluded to and everything gets socially awkward. They’re a lot meaner in the film.

In the book the protagonist’s wife is alive, while ‘widower’ is a major part of his screen counterpart’s identity. Kids being snuffed out one by one is an essential plot motif in the film. In the book the threat of impending child death is more subtle, and the woman in black’s role in their death is uncertain: her status as an omen or a malicious force is ambiguous. Kind of like ‘the grim’ in Harry Potter. Another young promising actor typecast already. Doesn’t it just tear your heart out?

Half the book wouldn’t be obscured by my slightly splayed fingers.

Sam didn’t want to spoil the ending for me, but I begged, him, so he told me. It’s different. The book was ‘better’ but it wouldn’t have translated well to film without major changes, thus Sam can understand the choices made by the story adaptation people.

The Woman in Black book was more mysterious than the film, which employed several clichés which reminded me of the time in grade 8 when a friend sent me an image over msn messenger and said stare hard at this for 30 seconds to see the hidden picture, so I stared thinking it was like a magic eye then BAM a ghost face appeared and screamed and my face fell off and I vowed never, never again to get scared by a stupid .gif ever, ever again.

So I didn’t like the scene where that happened.

Many books shed light on the protagonist’s perspective or thoughts. I hope this book does that. Perhaps his actions would be more understandable that way. I couldn’t understand why he was doing anything other than huddling in the corner crying.

Radcliffe acted more like a badass-yet-compassionate robot than a lawyer.

The book probably describes being a solicitor better because the film infers that it’s only paper shuffling. I mean, yeah, if he was like a kid on holidays in Narnia because of WWII he could take his sweet ass time reading dead people’s birthday cards. Shouldn’t he have been soliciting more than that? And if you are starting to believe in ghosts, don’t fucking stay overnight in the ghost house! Sit the fuck down and cry in the corner like a normal scared person if you want to be a serious actor in serious films god-damn-it Harry.

I think the book should be pretty good because the movie was pretty good and Sam liked it too so do what you will accordingly.

This review is sort of about The Woman in Black, Susan Hill 1983 and 2012’s The Woman in Black,  the latest adaption of the novel, which has been adapted multiple times for television and radio. It has run, as a stage play, on the West End since 1989.

None of these other adaptations feature Daniel Radcliffe.