The Woman in Black

Old-school ghost story suffers from the curse of studio interference on UK shores

Based on Susan Hill’s best-selling novel, this period chiller stars Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a widowed lawyer sent to oversee the sale of an isolated coastal house that locals claim is haunted by a terrifying apparition. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Kipps to realise that there’s more to the story than mere superstition. But how can he escape the ghostly curse?

Packed with moments designed to have you leaping out of your seat, this handsome film is an effective attempt at crafting an old-fashioned ghost story for a modern audience. Unfortunately, given the source material, it has an awful lot to live up to, and ultimately it comes second best to the book, stage play and the supremely chilling Nigel Kneale-scripted 1989 ITV adaptation.

Picture: The Woman in Black cuts a pretty fine figure on Blu-ray thanks to its film-like AVC 2.40:1 1080p presentation. The spooky nature of the story means that it’s not necessarily the most colourful movie you’ll ever seen, but some delightfully intricate detailing and strong black levels go some way to making amends for the rather drab palette. Skin tones also veer more towards the ‘pasty’ end of the scale, but this is undoubtedly true to the filmmaker’s intent.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Ghost stories typically provide fertile ground for intense aural effects and playful positional audio. And, while the latter element is certainly well represented by The Woman in Black’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it never reaches the dynamic peaks you’d expect. This may stem from the fact that Momentum Pictures toned down some elements of the mix (along with darkening some scenes and cutting six seconds of film) in order to secure a 12 certificate in the UK - which only resulted in people complaining about it still being too scary!  So, can we have the original cut, please?
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: As well as the audio commentary by director James Watkins and writer Jane Goldman (which is well worth a listen to make sure you catch all of the film’s spooky apparitions), 10-minute Making of… featurette and 4-minute interview with Daniel Radcliffe that appeared on the US Blu-ray, Momentum’s disc also conjures up a fair selection of UK exclusives. These include additional interviews, 22 minutes of red carpet tomfoolery from the London premiere, three trailers, four image galleries (Behind the Scenes, Film Stills, Production Design and Storyboards) and Radcliffe reading the winning entry from a ghost story competition that was presumably run to support the film’s UK cinema release, but is presented here devoid of any contextualising information.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: A compromised hi-def outing for an old-school supernatural chiller

Momentum Pictures, Region B BD, £25 Approx, On sale now