It’s not as much the horror that draws me to movies on ghosts as the curiosity to know how the ghosts are presented. So I was not at all disappointed that the latest horror movie from Hollywood did not terrify me. In fact, no horror movies have horrified me in the least. Real people have!
This is not a review of the movie. Reviews are available aplenty in the internet. I’m just voicing some thoughts that struck me as I rode home after watching the movie this afternoon with my wife.
Why do we tend to view ghosts as incarnations of evil? Or, to put the question slightly differently, why do we seem to think that only evil people become ghosts? Whenever I imagined ghosts I could only view them as comical creatures who cared ludicrously to stay back on a planet of horrible creatures. Only once did I write a ghost story myself (in 2007). Here is it, in case you’re interested: The Death of a Vampire. It’s a farcical satire in which a blood-thirsty vampire gets killed after sucking the blood of a politician. The intellectuals in the satire turn out to be creatures as effete as the vampire. The solid men are the politician and the businessman. And a vampire should be wary of their blood.
What is the spirituality behind horror movies? This is another question that fascinates me. Woman in Black shows an evil ghost who is vindictive against children. Why children? There’s a motive, as made clear enough in the movie. But what happens to the children whom she lures to death mercilessly? Do they go to heaven as the conclusion of the movie seems to imply? Or do they stay behind on the earth as ghosts as the other parts of the movie seem to imply?
While most of the older ghost movies like Dracula make a bipolar division between good and evil, and impute all goodness to religion while all the evil is imputed to the ghosts or vampires, Woman in Black mercifully spares us of such a farce. There’s no holy priest wielding a crucifix in this movie. Arthur Kipps [Daniel Radcliffe] struggles with the wicked ghost mostly all by himself. There’s no touch of religious spirituality anywhere. But the conclusion throws an implicit hint at a different kind of religious spirituality, though not convincing in the least even as fiction.
Why does the colour black get associated with evil and white with goodness? I guess only the white people in Hollywood will be able to give us a convincing answer to that.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed Woman in Black for what it is. A good comedy. I mean, for me. [But I didn’t laugh out loud like quite many others in the movie hall did many times when the director of the movie meant it to be serious and full of suspense – Delhiites are really a funny lot, I should say.] I liked the setting too, a countryside scene in England with the isolated house beside a marsh and a long narrow stretch of road across the marsh. It’s no wonder a woman living in such a house is driven to the kingdom of ghosts.