Woman in Black [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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When a friendless old widow dies in the seaside town of Crythin, a young solicitor is sent by his firm to settle the estate. The lawyer finds the townspeople reluctant to talk about or go near the woman's dreary home and no one will explain or even acknowledge the menacing woman in black he keeps seeing. Ignoring the towns-people's cryptic warnings, he goes to the house where he discovers its horrible history and becomes ensnared in its even more horrible legacy.
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So opens the best Christmas Eve chiller I ever had the good luck to watch - and in recent years I did have the good fortune to get the chance to view it again.
The tension builds slowly - and unbearably. Actually it is already present at the very beginning: the young father is under pressure at work, bullied somewhat by a boss who clearly disapproves of his having married so soon - although later we find out that the boss may have reasons of his own for delegating this task.
Kidd's potential vulnerability is therefore established at the outset - though he still as flippant and brazen about what he might be up against, even after he gets the strongest intimation that he may be be getting into something he might not be able to handle.
'Here is Arthur Kiidd at Eel House clearing away the rubblish!' he scornfully records into what passed for a state-of-the-art dictaphone.
But he is all alone in the gloomy old house and soon the isolation of the place with the tidal causeway and all, start to get to him. The house holds its secrets and hidden tragedy and the spirits are not benign......
So this film effectively does what it sets out to do - it continues to relentlessly turn the screw of terror until we almost relive the hapless protagonist's eventual nervous collapse for ourselves. And it does this via the 'less is more' approach - the horror is hinted at, through shadow and what us evoked via our own imaginations rather than through schlock. Though there is that one, famous occasion.....
But there is more.
For me the shooting, the sheer atmosphere and melancholy of the seascapes with the screech of gulls, the grey and oppressive landscapes, the attention to early twentieth Century period costume, all help contribute to make this film the complement of any great fan of ghostly November/Christmas chillers.
Track it down if you can. This version of the film is truly something special.
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