Looking for a review of the 2012 version of The Woman in Black? Click over here.
I watch a lot of horror movies. Up until recently, this blog was all about horror movies. And as you can imagine, I’ve watched many more than I’ve ever written about here, with few ill effects. But Friday night, after I watched The Woman in Black, I went to bed, had a nightmare, and literally woke up screaming. If you have seen the movie, you know what the big payoff scene with the ghost of the woman in black is. You wait for it the entire movie. You think you’re ready because you know she has to appear and go boo at some point, but when she does, oh Lordy.
Well, in my dream, she did the same thing to me that she did to the main character, Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins), in the big payoff scene. My poor husband had to wake up and tell me I was dreaming, although he claims to have no memory of the incident. Even after I woke up, I was not only scared to go back to sleep, I was thinking ahead to how scared I’d be Sunday night when my husband went back on the night shift! He blames the entire bottle of ChocoVine I drank while watching the movie. I prefer to believe that The Woman in Black is Just That Damn Scary.
Anyway, here it is Tuesday, which means two things: the woman in black did not get me when Mr. Wednesday’s Child went back to work Sunday, and that The Woman in Black is a TV movie. Can you believe that? A TV movie that made me wake up screaming! It makes more sense when you know it comes from the UK, land of Ghostwatch, the TV movie so scary it has never been broadcast a second time. I mean, TV movies in the USA scare kids, or did when the TV movie of the week ruled the world back in the 70s, but a 37 year old woman who has a severe horror habit shouldn’t scare that easily.
OK, back to Arthur Kidd. He is a solicitor in London back in the ago time when Charlie Chaplin was still making comedies, which we know because Chaplin’s new movie is mentioned in conversation at the beginning of the film. I think a solicitor is a lawyer, but if they want to call them solicitors in the UK, I guess they can. They can call them whatever they want when they make TV movies this scary. Arthur is headed to a coastal town to clean out and sell the house of one recently deceased and friendless old widow. Why was she friendless? Her creepy old house, which you can only reach at low tide because otherwise the road is underwater, is cursed by the woman in black. In fact, the woman in black has cursed the whole damn town. Arthur meets a very nice guy on the train there, Sam Toovey (Bernard Hepton), who has Arthur over for dinner, and even lends Arthur the Toovey family dog to keep him company while he’s at the widow’s house, but Toovey warns Arthur again and again that he really should just go back to London. Nobody else will even discuss the ghost, and it turns out they are smart and Arthur is dumb.
I don’t want to tell you too much, because this blog is quickly turning into Deep Red Spoilers, but I have to say that the ghost is angry because her child died. I’m telling you this because I want to talk about the prevalence of such ghosts in local legends all over the US, and probably the world. The world! I found a few legends of traveling phantoms when I was writing about Large Marge, but nothing matches the number of ghost sightings of women who have lost a child, either due to their death or the child’s or both, and they usually happen in a lonely area near water. Have a look through this excellent index of hauntings at The Shadowlands and you will find probably dozens. This one about the ghost of Cry Woman Bridge from another site is particularly chilling to me.
So why all these legends? It’s not that I disbelieve or believe them all, but besides the universal hitchhiking ghosts I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same basic story told in so many places. Is it that people believe women are less than complete without a child? That would be offensive, but I’ve heard more sexist things, so it’s possible that such thinking would be the source of so many tales of ghost women looking for their babies. There’s also the idea that a woman whose child is in danger is herself very dangerous, as the now deceased would-be home invader in this story from recent headlines found out.
Back again to the movie. The other thing that struck me, as a similar relationship struck me while watching the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas The Signalman, is the fast friendship between Arthur and Sam. He meets Sam, has dinner at his house, borrows a dog, and then stays with Sam after the ghost drives him out of the widow’s house, all in the space of a few days. To a person from stabbin’ 2012 (nod to Chris Rock in Head of State and his description of “stabbin’ Jamaica“), that friendship sounds as dangerous as the ghost. And my feelings on that matter depress me. I know people may have been more trusting 100 years ago, and I’m also aware that in both stories the friend character is there as a plot device, but I wonder if you could even have a friend character like Sam in a modern setting.
As for Arthur’s fate, well, it reminds me of a scene from The Asphyx, so you know it’s not good. Put this story in the horror category of why you shouldn’t Mess With Things You Don’t Understand, and also the one of why you should heed the warnings of the Guy Who Knows More Than He’s Saying. Or the entire village of guys. Do it for the children.