Saturday, March 24, 2012

Episode 1279: The Woman In Black (Film Version)

Having seen two productions of the play and now the 2012 film, I feel almost obliged to read Susan Hill's original novel, for the sake of completeness. While I respect that the film is its own creature, I'm still going to say that I don't think it's as good as the play. The problem is actually really straightforward; the film doesn't trust its audience to become scared. So where the play (and I imagine the novel too) relies predominantly on the verbal to ramp up the tension, thereby making the moments when we actually see the titular woman all the more terrifying, the film persistently teases the audience with fleeting glimpses of her, and when it's actually time to show her in close-up, the soundtrack really rams the moment in your face. You feel the jolt of adrenaline, but you also realise how completely ridiculous the 'scare' is, as evidenced by the laughter and tittering in the cinema tonight. It reminds me of when I went to see The Eye 2 in the cinema back in Singapore, and everyone laughed whenever something supposedly scary happened precisely because they were able to predict its occurrence. (With one exception, and that moment in the film was likely the only one that succeeded in shocking people.) In a post-Exorcist mediascape, where the rise of body horror and torture porn as film genres has inured and desensitised us as viewers, such tactics like using loud noises just won't work, at least not without generating that audience self-awareness that leads to amusement rather than fright. Didn't really like the way the story had been changed for the film too, especially the frustratingly 'Hollywood' ending. I also found it slightly difficult to buy Daniel Radcliffe as a father, permanent five o'clock shadow notwithstanding. The kid who plays his son was exceedingly adorable though, I'll concede that. Turns out he's actually Radcliffe's real-life godson.

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