The Case of…”The Woman in Black” (2012)

  • Directed By James Watkins
  • Screenplay by Jane Goldman
  • Based on a novel by Susan Hill
  • UK Release Date: 10th February 2012


“The Woman in Black” (2012) is a terrifying piece of horror that scares even the most hardcore fans of the genre. The atmosphere is eerie, complimented by the large, gothic scenery and spacious locations that creates isolation wonderfully. The production value was outstanding relying on very little gore and the jump scares provided an unsettling tone. It also makes use of the archetypal horror film setting of the traditional haunted house. So yes the film is a strong and satisfying contender for modern horror but it does have one major issue…

The days when horror films were rated 18 are sorely missed. In the past decade it seems that ratings for these types of films have been reduced in order to appeal to the teenage audiences. Let’s face it films are there to make money and horror is no exception, the original slasher films were made about teenagers for teenagers, but somehow the 12A certificate for “The Woman In Black” really takes the biscuit! Most horror’s that emerged from the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s were 18 rated as if it was an automatic expectation for anything with scary, horrific or violent content to achieve that certificate. Take the “Scream” franchise for example, the films made between 1996-2000 were all 18’s. Flash forward to 2011 and the goriest offer of the series is rated 15. The point is the films that have emerged in the last decade that were rated 15 are a lot worse than the majority of 18’s of the past. Taking “The Woman in Black” into consideration, is this the beginning of a new wave of 12A rated horror films featuring disturbing imagery that potentially could fuel nightmares that will be viewed as suitable for children/young teenagers? Granted there is a major difference between a film that focuses on the supernatural and the un-real in comparison to a film where a masked maniac hacks up a load of people in an extremely violent manner but is this really an excuse?

What scares people as individuals varies. Children have vivid imaginations so is this film going to result in many sleepless nights? Bearing in mind “The Woman in Black” is based off a novel that was adapted into a stage play that is viewed by many GSCE drama groups around the UK so should that automatically make a film adaptation of it marketed towards that age range? It has been reported that the both the BBFC and the film’s studio made seemingly minor alterations to one of the most intense sequences in the film in order to reduce its intensity for the suitability of the 12A rating. In reality 6 seconds of this sequence were cut in addition to the sound level being reduced during certain moments and some shots being darkened, therefore from a personal standpoint these changes appear very minor to non-existent as the scene still came across as disturbing, unsettling and edge of your seat worthy. There were moments where the entire audience nearly leaped out of their seats screaming (and that was just the adults!) including a moment where a face screams at the window! **shudder!**

What the most disturbing factor is that the film focuses on child death, three young girls are seen committing suicide at the beginning of the film, the main character is seen digging up the corpse of a child and a child is seen coughing up her own blood before collapsing to her death and also there is a girl setting herself on fire. Nightmare-ish stuff that makes torture porn more preferable to watch!! Child death is a vulnerable and sensitive subject for parents let alone children themselves viewing it!

Allegedly 12A films should not feature strong moments of violence, sex and nudity, swearing, blood/gore and unsettling scenes. “The Woman in Black” contains the latter on a great scale. In terms of the financial side to the film its clear what is happening with its distributors, Daniel Radcliffe fresh out of the “Harry Potter” series is the main star, for ten years he has held appeal among the child/teenage audience and the film is being marketed through that success and popularity. The “Harry Potter” films began as family-orientated and PG rated but in its later years did develop a darker tone and the ratings increased. However the point is this is separate from “Harry Potter” and just because of a particular actor being in a film it should not determine its certificate especially when it comes down to the content of the film. Daniel Radcliffe himself has advised children against seeing this film and seems opposed to the 12A its been given, so that should be a strong factor when the lead actor has concerns.

“The Woman in Black” is far darker than anything found in films like “Harry Potter”. If this is what contends as a film suitable for young people then it really is a sad time we live in and highlights the loss of childhood or childhood becoming shorter. Personally it would be advisable if no one below 15 viewed this and parents avoid taking their children without viewing it first hand then making the decision on the maturity of the child. It remains a great shame that money and marketing overpower the actual content and work that goes into making horror films effective.

Hayley Alice Roberts


4 Responses to “The Case of…”The Woman in Black” (2012)”

  1. ekmclive Says:

    I agree on all of your comments of the film using classical horror techniques to deliver some truly great scares. Although, I do disagree with some of your assumptions. For instance when you mention how films now are worse than those that were 18 rated in the past, yes that’s true, but well that’s just the way it’s been as over the years audiences get used to what is thrown at them. If you look at the BBFC’s decisions over the past years, films that were thought to be morally damaging are now thought to be kids stuff in comparison, it is literally just the change of the times. Plus your implications on the loss of childhood is a bit over the top, as it doesn’t just take happy and magical stories to enthral younger audiences, kids have always loved the darker stuff and they arguably provide more memorable moments. I mean hell, looked what they did to Harry Potter in The Prison of Azkaban, that went completely dark yet the magic was not ruined for those that watched it. In any case it should be up to the parents to judge whether to send their kids off to watch it, as they alone can tell what they enjoy and what they don’t. BTW this isn’t like a rant, just providing some food for thought 🙂

  2. […] despicable and contradictory particularly when we have a film that blatantly conveys child suicide (The Woman in Black) slapped with a harmless 12A certificate, meaning any child under 12 is ok to see it when […]

  3. ecspecially around KIDS PEOPLE why cant they just watch somthing like DESPICIBLE ME!!! WITH THE MINIONS!!! why horror films why PEOPLE

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