Arthur Kipps, a grieving widowed man, is sent to settle the affairs of a deceased widow. The locals seem to be in a rush to hurry him along his way, but he resolves to do the job he came to do.
It isn't until later, as bodies begin to pile up — upon the bodies already there — that Arthur learns why.
There is a sequel which came out in January 2015, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death.
This film contains examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: In the novel, the kids dying was just something the townsfolk of Crythin Gifford had to live with; in the film it becomes a subplot. Nathaniel's corpse is also recovered and properly buried; and no attempt is made to exorcise either spectre. In the film, Arthur witnesses Nathaniel drag himself out of the bog and try to regain the house, which gives him the idea to attempt to reunite the ghosts.
- Absurdly Youthful Father: Arthur. Lampshaded by several characters after learning he's both a father and a widower, despite his youth.
- Adult Fear: The children who kill themselves at the Woman in Black's behest.
- Jennet watching her son die.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: "G.G." by MUCC is the image song for the Japanese version.
- An Axe to Grind: Arthur grabs a hatchet at one point, whilst investigating the strange noises in the house.
- Barred from the Afterlife: The children who kill themselves under Jennet's influence are implied to be this. Arthur's son is spared because the former rushes to save him, while his wife acts as a guardian angel to take them safely to the afterlife.
- Bittersweet Ending: Arthur and his son die, but they're reunited with his wife and seemingly happy to be together. Also, unlike the rest of the children the Woman has taken, they're free to move on to the afterlife. However the Bittersweet Ending is Bitter enough to veer into Downer Ending territory — Arthur and Joseph are dead, after all, and the Woman in Black will continue to torment the village.
- The Downer Ending is far worse for Sam, who, despite helping Arthur in trying to appease the Woman in Black, is rewarded for all his efforts by witnessing his friend die along with his son, knowing that the Woman is still going to torment the village and prevent his son from being able to move on to the afterlife.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three girls in the prologue.
- Blood from the Mouth: Victoria Harding, the lye victim, in a severe example.
- Collector of the Strange
- Creepy Child: Any of Jennet's victims, post mortem.
- Creepy Doll: PRACTICALLY EVERYWHERE.
- Dark Is Evil: Jennet dresses in entirely black clothing and kills children as part of her vengeance.
- Death by Adaptation: Despite surviving into old age after his encounters with the Women in Black, here Kipps is not so lucky.
- Death by Childbirth: Kipps' wife.
- Diabolus ex Machina: See below.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The titular woman steals children out of revenge against her son being kept away from her... but the children she's stealing have nothing to do with the matter.
- Driven to Suicide:
- Eye contact with the ghost causes children to calmly kill themselves in the most immediate — and usually terrible — way possible.
- Jennet herself, after first being denied any contact with her son, and then her son dying in an accident in the bog and never having his body recovered.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Daily's dog can sense whenever wrathful Jennet is nearby, or one of her ghost kids.
- The Farmer and the Viper: Kipp spends the last act of the movie trying to reunite Jennet and her son, hoping it will put her at peace. Nope. Though it might have earned him the result in Even Evil Has Standards.
- On the other hand, it also may have made Jennet even angrier. It's implied by the end of the film that Jennet may have been an emotionally disturbed woman in life, and therefore actually an unfit mother. What with the scrawled messages and the madness mantra and all.
- Foreshadowing: Upon Arthur's first day in the House, the plumbing vomits a gob of mud into the sink. In the climax, he has to deal with Nathaniel's mud-soaked ghost.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The final shot of the film seems to imply this. If you have kids, it's particularly unsettling.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you watch carefully (or pause judiciously) you can catch little glimpses of the Woman in the background of a lot of scenes. Usually leading up to a Jump Scare, but not always. Notably when Arthur is running off into the woods at the beginning, the camera passes by her silhouette, but if you're not paying close attention you might mistake it for a tree, but there are others.
- Friend to All Children: Arthur.
- Genre Throwback: To the classic slow-paced Hammer Horror films of the 1970s.
- Ghostly Goals: The titular ghost exists to cause the children of the nearby town to kill themselves. Arthur believes that she's doing this because she wants to be reunited with her son, and he risks his life to accomplish this.
- Nathaniel has the type A goal of being buried properly, judging from the way he re-enacts his demise and manifests as a mud-soaked zombie.
- Girl in the Tower: Simultaneous use and inversion. The solicitor's daughter is locked in the office basement to protect her from Jennet. It fails horribly.
- Haunted House Historian: Everyone in town, but of course none of them are talky.
- The Hero Dies: Arthur himself at the end.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Arthur jumps on the tracks to prevent his son being hit by a train. It doesn't work, but his willingness to sacrifice himself for his son prevent the Woman in Black taking him, allowing them both to join his wife in the afterlife.
- Hollywood Fire: Used when the solicitor's office burns up. Kipps charges in to save their daughter, and comes out with little more than soot on his face and burnt hands.
- Hope Spot: Arthur manages to reunite Jennet with the body of her son, which seems to put her to rest, and thus saves the life of his son, right? Nope, she still can't forgive what was done to her, so she appears to Arthur's son, which leads to both his and Arthur's deaths.
- Implacable Man: Jennet.
- Infant Immortality: Averted thoroughly within the first three minutes, and throughout the movie.
- Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Never brought up in the movie, but the trailer has a brutally chilling one:During afternoon tea, there's a shift in the air,
A bone trembling chill that tells you she's there,
There are those who believe the whole town is cursed,
But the house in the marsh is by far the worst,
What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back,
The specter of darkness, The Woman in Black.
- The trailer for the sequel has a shorter, but equally chilling one.In the marsh lies a house abandoned for years,
That hides a darkness beyond all fears,
She never forgives, she always comes back,
There is no escaping The Woman in Black.
- The trailer for the sequel has a shorter, but equally chilling one.
- Jump Scare: More than a few.
- Just Eat Gilligan: The plot hole of the book is neatly covered here: Whereas in the book, Kipps is notified before leaving that the widow had stacks of documents that would take him days to sort through, the movie has his contact in the village hand him a small envelope of papers and insist that this is everything. He's lying, of course; by the end of the first day, Kipps has a large and unsorted pile of papers on the table in the house, and he continues to discover more as he proceeds in his investigation.
- The Lost Lenore: Arthur's wife.
- Madness Mantra: "Never forgive... never forgive... never forgive!"
- Misplaced Retribution: Despite the Woman in Black holding her sister as one of those responsible for taking her son away from her, leaving him to die in the marsh and never bothering to recover the body, she apparently allowed her to die of old age with zero comeuppance on her part. Of course, letting her suffer all those years with the crippling guilt of being responsible for the death of the subsequent children might have been her goal.
- It's debatable whether the Woman in Black really never took revenge on her sister. In her papers, Alice left many scrawled messages such as "She will haunt me to the grave" and "God protects me": one has to wonder if death would not have been preferable to living her whole life playing peek-a-boo with her sister's crazy ghost.
- Man on Fire: Jerome's daughter Lucy does this to herself under Jennet's influence.
- Monkey Morality Pose: At least one set of the monkey toys was in the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil pose.
- Nice Guy: Arthur and Sam.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: To see the woman in black is to cause her to kill one of the local children. Two surefire ways to make her appear are to go to the house in the marsh and to rifle through her things. So, of course, when our hero comes to visit...
- Arthur even invokes this towards Sam when he calls him out for not warning him to stay away from the house, especially after learning that he had a son of his own. Sam defends this by pointing out that he simply didn't want to believe the stories and preferred to believe that his son was in the afterlife, rather than lost as a thrall to the Woman in Black.
- Nightmare Face: The titular Woman In Black. For most of the film she is typically seen either from a distance, or out of the camera's focus. But at the climax we get a good look at her... have fun sleeping tonight.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Used a lot, and to great effect.
- Old, Dark House: Also a Haunted House.
- Overprotective Father: Jerome and his wife keep their daughter in a room in a cellar to keep her safe from Jennet. It fails.
- Pet the Dog: The title character appears to let the Kipps family pass on, rather than stay on Earth like the rest of her victims, out of gratitude for Arthur's effort to appease her and sacrificing his life in an attempt to save his son.
- Police are Useless: PC Collins, who immediately leaves the room after Arthur reveals he saw Jennet, and is totally absent while Victoria Hardy dies from drinking lye, which is when he is needed most, and later is a part of the Powder Keg Crowd that blames the recent deaths on Arthur.
- Powder Keg Crowd: When children start dying after Arthur arrives in town, the townsfolk blame him because of his connection with the manor, and at one point surround Daily's car as he's ready to drive out of town. Daily defuses the situation... before nearly running them over.
- Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The town's children, whenever the titular Woman in Black is seen.
- Psychic Powers: Mrs Daily has a connection with the soul of her son, who was taken by the Woman in Black.
- Quieter Than Silence: Often.
- Raised by Humans: Mrs Daily's dogs.
- Real After All: Sam Daily touts that Spiritualism is a hoax even though the Woman in Black had taken his son as well, and his son's soul regularly apparently takes possession of his wife.
- Rise from Your Grave: When Nathaniel doesn't manifest as a horse and cart sinking to its doom in a bog, he drags himself out of it and tries to enter the house. This is what gives Arthur the idea to reunite Jennet and Nathaniel.
- Room Full of Crazy: Nathaniel's room, where the wallpaper hides missives from his mother either in red paint or actual blood.
- Self-Immolation: Jerome's daughter drops a lantern at her feet and goes up in flames.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Everything that Arthur does in this movie, including his attempts to set things right with Jennet and her dead son, is rendered pointless at the end when he and his son are simply murdered by Jennet's ghost. At the very least, though, he and his son are reunited with his wife.
- Several scenes, to Harry Potter:
- The afterlife scene being in a train station.
- At the beginning when Arthur falls asleep on the train, he is leaning against the window looking at his reflection... how many times have we seen that shot in the Harry Potter films?
- This sort of seemed like a shout out to Harry Potter's epilogue — in the very beginning of the movie, Daniel Radcliffe is leaning down and reassuring his son and easing his worries. It was startlingly similar to an adult Harry Potter comforting Albus Severus.
- The movie ends with a parent dying to save his son, much like the events that triggered the Harry Potter story.
- The upstairs landing of Eelmarsh House has the same pattern on the floor as the hotel carpet in The Shining.
- Several scenes, to Harry Potter:
- Shown Their Work: Nathaniel's corpse is in perfect condition, despite being 50 years old. Bodies don't rot when buried in bogs; because the acid in the water kills the bacteria necessary for decompisition.
- Skeptic No Longer: Sam Daily finally acknowledges the supernatural nature of the house and the existence of the ghost in the last act, and tries to help Kipps lay the ghosts to rest.
- Together in Death: The whole Kipps family.
- Town with a Dark Secret
- Unfinished Business: Jennet watched her son die, his body never recovered but left in the bog where it was with a simple cross to mark its place. Our hero concludes that reuniting the two may well lay her to rest. It doesn't work.
- Ungrateful Bastard: If you think reuniting the ghost with her lost child would stop her killing spree, you'd be wrong.
- Voice of the Legion: Mrs. Daily, when the ghost children speak through her.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Woman in Black, of course.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Arthur. Maybe if we reunite the ghost with her son she'll stop killing people! Nope.