Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Woman in Black

When I was a senior in high school I was fortunate enough to go on a trip through the English department to England. It was all arranged through a tour company with an itinerary customized for learning about history and literature and all that. You could even sign up for an optional jaunt to France if you were a French student, which I wasn't so I did not. I can't remember how many of us went, but it was at least 50 and possibly as many as 100 plus chaperons. It was all kind of insane especially when you consider nearly all of us were of legal drinking age in the UK.

I paid for it myself with all my hard earned money from working at the mall, and on Christmas Day 1991, I boarded my first commercial airline for the flight to London. We arrived and had a full day of running around London to do before we were all herded into a theater to see a show. Putting a bunch of jet-lagged teens who hadn't slept in over 24 hours into a dark theater with cushioned seats may not have been the best plan. One imagines an entire section of the house snoring loudly for the bulk of the performance. That may have been true were it not for the choice of play: The Woman in Black.

That name may sound familiar to you as it is about to be a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter film role. I confess that I have never read the original novel, but the stage play that I saw on that fateful December day a little over 20 years ago was hands down the scariest fucking thing I've ever seen. Scarier than any movie, any story or novel, any TV show, any performance of Fear, anything. That shit was terrifying. For years I would get goosebumps even talking about it.

Stage Play Trailer:

About 10 years ago I saw a really bad production of it up in Napa that took the bloom of the rose a bit, but in truth, any scary story is really at its scariest the first time you experience it. You can never really recreate that first time huddled in a dark basement that you saw Alien or Aliens or Dawn of the Dead or what have you.

Still, I have to say I'm intrigued by the preview for the movie.

Film Trailer:

The stage adaptation is brilliant and the film will inherently lose the elements of live theater that the play uses to such great effect. But those elements would have been missing from the novel too, so who knows that tricks the film has up its sleeve.

You can still see the stage play, if you're in London and so inclined. It's the second longest running show on the West End after The Mousetrap. I've been back to London many times since that first trip in high school, but I've never dared go back to see The Woman in Black again. I'm not sure I have it in me.


  1. I saw that show in London as well, in April of 1991 or so. (I probably still have the ticket stub.) And yes -- it was TERRIFYING.

  2. T and I saw it too, probably in 1994 or 95. It absolutely scared the pants off me. And even the trailer gave me goosebumps. I think I better plan on a matinee so it is still light out when I leave the cinema.


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