The Woman in Black – My Unstructured Rant about Unnecessary Change (spoilers)

The Woman In Black cover by Jamie Clark

I was in the middle of reading The Woman in Black when my girlfriend suggested that we could watch the film adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe playing the leading role of Arthur Kipps as long as I didn’t mind getting spoiled. I didn’t mind the idea and so we watched it. I was bothered when I saw that the adaptation was a very different story right from the start. What the film ended up being was a Hollywoodised jumpscare fest.

Needless to say, there will be significant spoilers from here on out.

The book started off with the main character as an old man reminiscing about the events that occurred in the past. He was very hesitant to talk about the events because of how traumatising they were. He was thus alive after the events at the town. His boss is shown to be a sympathetic man and Arthur Kipps is shown to be an eager career-building lawyer. In the film, however, the boss is shown to be a dick and Kipps is shown to be in debt. Oh, and Kipps is shown to have become a widow and a single parent to his child. In the book Kipps didn’t have a child at the time of the events of the past, nor was he even married to his beloved at that point.

So why the change? It annoyed right from the get-go to see that the story had been changed. Kipps was immediately being made into a target for sympathy by forcing in traumatic events into his backstory for no reason other than to force feelings down the audience’s throat.

Later on in the film Kipps arrives at the town and he is made unwelcome right from the start. People glare at him, the townies retreat to their houses, and the atmosphere in general is just gloomy. This was not at all the case in the book: he was happily taken in, without resistance or glaring, and in general he was treated well. People were averse to the topic of lady Drablow, the passed proprietor of an estate and some lands, due to whom Kipps came to the town, but they, for the most part, stayed lively and talkative about other topics. There was also a farmland auction coming up the next day, which would bring in more people. This never happened in the film.

The film unnecessarily tried to force the feelings of unease and suspicion into your head with absolutely zero attempt at subtlety. I’m not saying that the book itself was very subtle about there being something amiss, but the film just push the message in your face, not allowing for you to have any thinking of your own.

Arthur Kipps was portrayed as a man of reason and logic in the books, believing that he was somewhat superior to the superstitious countryside folk in the beginning, eventually growing more unsettled in what he saw. The Kipps of the film on the other hand started off believing in spirits and ghosts because of his dead wife. Why was this change made? It made no sense to me. Children by the church was used as subtle foreshadowing in the book, while the images of children were used throughout the film. Oh, and they kept dying.

The dying of children was a central point in the malevolence of the spirit that haunted the town. Every time she had been seen, a child died under horrible circumstances. This is true in both mediums, yes. But in the film they just took it way overboard. Several children died and the villagers were constantly trying to mob Kipps, blaming him for it. In the book? No child died at the time of the events in the town nor was anyone of the town’s inhabitants trying to blame it on him. Why would they? The spectre appeared seemingly at random to people; how could you ever blame someone for spotting the ghost? Should everyone just gouge their eyes to prevent this? Ugh.

Before I go onto talking about the ending, the jumpscares. There was a constant expectation of jumpscares at all times and it was just frustrating when they eventually came. And of course the ghost screamed. It’s a horror film. In the books the ghost was silent, present, paralysingly terrifying in how she stared. There was malevolence and a sense of evil about her without her being a howling banshee. Just the idea based on the descriptions given makes her imposing. The screamer in the film was just obnoxious.

So the ending. In the film the reason for the ghost staying vengeful was that her boy that she gave for adoption to her sister was never excavated from the swampy marshlands in which he drowned. In the book he had been properly buried in the end. Despite the boy being buried in the end in the film as well, the voice of the ghost gives exposition, saying that she would never forgive the transgression. So the child of the protagonist who had for some reason come to the town with his nanny gets killed after he arrives. The father dies with him and they walk away with Kipps’ dead wife into afterlife. In the book the fact that children die each time the ghost is seen is brought up at the end of the book, before Kipps leaves for home. Because he was alive later on. Several years later, with a child of his own and his then beloved married, they go to a faire or something. At the faire, the child and the wife go for a pony ride. Kipps had put the events past him only to see the malevolent ghost again. The ghost scared the pony, which lead to both the child and the wife dying.

I think the book’s ending is much more powerful and the fact that the man survived to tell the tale after having moved on with his life has a better message to give about human endurance. The film ending just ends up being one of those, in my opinion, dull horror film endings where the family uniting happily in afterlife.

So there was some ranting about The Woman in Black. If you want to experience it, definitely read the book rather than watch the film because it was just made into a really predictable mediocre horror film. That’s all I’ve to say on the matter in summary.

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