I spent Saturday afternoon screaming in the cinema and hiding my face in my boyfriend’s shoulder.

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Film stills taken from here

I don’t really like to admit that I had to ask for help, but I don’t think I would have made it through the film of The Woman in Black without my boyfriend’s shoulder. Not even covering my eyes seemed sufficient. Before you write me off as completely lame I can tell you that the cinema was full of teenagers trying to be cool, and they were shrieking as loud as I was. Look at the second picture down; do you see the Woman in Black’s ghostly face? Now tell me that you could cope with that, and worse, happening repeatedly in front of you for two hours. I found myself in this regrettable situation because I love The Woman in Black, the novel, so incredibly hard. This is for the simple truth that Susan Hill writes ghost stories like M.R. James, who is dead and can write no more. If there is one author who I could forget I had ever read on a yearly basis it would be M.R. James, and I am glad that Susan Hill is reinvigorating this genre in similar creepy, creaky style. Eel Marsh House is so perfect, opening its fetid arms to embrace Arthur Kipps and drag him to his certain doom.

My love for this novel was always going to make the film problematic for me. The more I love a book the less I find I am able to watch film versions without being critical. I have to say the setting was perfect, the house and the marsh and the village looked exactly as did in my head, but as was to be expected there are many differences between the novel and the film. With more ghosts, some hideous on-screen child deaths and a collection of very odd Victorian children’s toys, everything that was hinted subtly at in the novel was brought to garish life on-screen. Also the beginning and end were completely changed. No biggie.

I think my main problem with the film as a whole was the decision to give Arthur a dead wife from the start, a wife lost in childbirth. This took away an element that was to me important in the success of the novel; the idea of Arthur Kipps as a fresh, unsullied, pragmatic young man rushing forward without a supernatural thought in his head. Daniel Radcliffe’s Arthur is already half-broken, and although he has his son to care for, the grave holds less terror for him. I won’t give away any important twists, but I also think that the passage of time between Arthur’s stay at Eel Marsh and the horrifying climax of the novel makes the final pages all the more shocking while the ending of the film just seemed inevitable from the start.

Perhaps these problems with the film are just my problems because I like the quiet, slow, menacing sort of terror rather than the jump-out-of-your-seat-screaming kind. I feel like the potential for this film to have been a truly classic, understated horror classic like Rosemary’s Baby has been sacrificed for cheap thrills. Maybe they don’t make films like that anymore though, and maybe I’m just sucking lemons at the back of the cinema whining about the ‘good old days’.

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Winter is coming!

January 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ll begin with a cliché; wow, how time flies! Autumn is my favourite season, and I’ve really been enjoying how mild the weather has been the last three months. Unfortunately today it is wet and windy, and somehow, January. With it being the new year, amidst plans and promises to be more productive, my mind has flown back towards this blog that I began at the beginning of October. I’ve read plenty of books since then.

I was reading Perfume by Suskind when I started the blog, and I’m still not sure how I felt about it. I was torn between wanting to give Grenouille a good slap and hiding under the covers from his creepy face. Possibly, having seen the film, my experience of the book was a little spoiled. I knew what was going to happen and there was no suspense. My favourite character of the novel was Baldini. I found all the little details about the perfume business in France and Baldini’s petty little professional jealousies really interesting. Then Grenouille goes off and lives in a cave for a year and I completely lost interest.

Over Halloween I dipped into some seasonally appropriate books; We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill. The Shirley Jackson was a re-read, she’s one of my favourite authors and I feel sad that I’ve probably read almost everything that she’s written. I still mournfully scan charity shop shelves looking for some obscure out of print treasure. Sometimes I think that my love of Halloween comes from the sort of books I love to read; twisty Victorian Gothic masterpieces and weird, sad novels about loneliness and madness.

As the ghostly days waned and Christmas lights started to appear in the streets I returned to my current reading obsession, which began back in August in Estonia. The title of the post probably gives away that I am talking about Game of Thrones. I admit that I’d never even heard of the series until all the publicity over the HBO series (which is amazing); I tend to have my head in the sand over anything published after 1960. I devoured the first book in the series on the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, and by November I was ready to start on the fourth. I don’t want to give any spoilers, because I would hate to ruin anyone’s experience of reading these amazing books, but I was expecting to be disappointed by A Feast for Crows. The Amazon reviews were largely ‘blah’, with a lot people saying that the series had lost it’s way. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The book set up an incredible amount of ‘oh my god’ cliffhangers, and left me desperate to read the next book (which is my favourite Christmas present). The series is slow-moving, and I can understand people’s frustration at the sheer scale and the amount of time they are expected to dedicate to reading it. I don’t think it’s meant to be fast moving though, it’s meant to be huge and epic, almost like trying to write about the War of the Roses from every possible angle in minute detail. The only thing I could wish for is that George would write a bit faster so that we could have the next installment sometime in the next five years please!

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