Taking the Blu-ray’s message to heart, I didn’t watch it alone. I watched it with my daughter and it still scared me. We both watched the stage version of this film and that scared us silly. I was afraid that the film had some pretty big metaphorical shoes to fill. But I needn’t have worried, the film has as good a scare factor as the play.
Directed by James Watkins , this was his second time in the drivers seat (the first time was the exceptional Eden Lake) but you’d never know by watching the film that this was his second time at bat. Daniel Radcliffe does an excellent job of snapping his wand in two and ditching his cape to break away from the Harry Potter universe. I didn’t find my self looking for Hermoine Granger or Ron Weasley once.
The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows: A Young solicitor (lawyer) loses his wife to childbirth. He mourns her passing so much that he is in danger of losing his job as well. In a bid to help him get back on track, his employer sends him to the north of England to go through a recently deceased widows paperwork to determine if the firm have the most recent will. The young Solicitor (Arthur Kipps) travels to Cryphin Gifford a remote village that is closest to the deceased woman’s house Eel Marsh House. While on the train Arthur meets Sam Daily (Played with quiet conviction by actor Ciarán Hinds) who is from the village and Sam offers Arthur a lift to the local inn.
Arthur’s reception is cool to the point of freezing. No one wants him there and they definitely do not want him to go to Eel Marsh House. In fact the only people in the village who do not snub Arthur are Sam and his wife (Janet McTeer). Mrs Daily is not particularly on the ball. She has never recovered from the loss of their son. Arthur finally gets someone to take him to the mansion.
The film starts with three young girls having a tea party with their dolls. They all stop and look in the same direction. They then wordlessly stand up and go to a triple window. They open the window’s and jump out. We then get to meet Arthur. His wife is giving birth to their son and dies in the process.
The predominant theme in this film is death. It literally seems to ooze from the screen. The cinematography is spot on. The film is set in the Edwardian time period and by gosh it looks authentic. The lighting, the sets and the clothes all help to sell the time period. The lighting was the most crucial factor in helping to make this film scare you. I know my daughter said to me after the third or fourth time that Arthur went into a room without turning on a light, “I keep looking for a light switch!”
The film works on so many different levels. It is of course at its very root a haunted house film, but it is also a good old fashioned ghost story; it’s also a film with the theme of the curse, and last but certainly not least, it’s about an outsider bringing ruin to the village he enters. The film was creepy and scary and, at times, sad.
I am very glad the we did not see this at the cinema, I think I would have had to go home and put a dry pair of trousers on at least three times during the film.