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Woman in Black, The (1989)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

1925. Arthur is reprimanded by Mr Sweetman, the senior partner in his law firm, for not being serious enough in his job. Sweetman sends Arthur to wind up the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow in the remote town of Crythin Gifford. Arthur leaves his wife and two children, promising to return within a week or two. On the train he meets Mr Toovey, a rich landowner, who offers him a lift to the hotel.

The next morning Arthur goes to Mrs Drablow's funeral with Arnold Pepperell, the local solicitor. Arthur notices a woman dressed in black standing at the back of the church; he sees her again when the coffin is lowered into the ground. Pepperell is terrified when Arthur tells him he has seen her. Pepperell refuses to accompany Arthur to Mrs Drablow's home, Eel Marsh House. Arthur returns to his hotel. Just outside, a lumber truck has an accident, and a large log falls on a young gypsy girl. Arthur is able to pull her away before another log falls and kills her.

Keckwick takes Arthur across the causeway to Eel Marsh and warns him that it can only be passed at low tide. Wandering among the ruins and tombstones behind the house, Arthur sees the woman in black again. He is frightened by her angry expression and runs back to the house. He checks all the rooms, except one that is locked. While awaiting Keckwick's return, Arthur hears the sounds of a pony and trap crashing into the marsh and sinking, amid the screams of a child crying for its mother. Keckwick eventually arrives and takes Arthur back to the hotel. At the church, Arthur finds the tombs of many children, including those of Popperell and Toovey. At dinner, Arthur tells Toovey of his frightening experiences at the house. Toovey tries to discourage him from returning, but when Arthur refuses, insists that he take his dog Spider for company.

At the house, Arthur finds a photo of the woman in black, as well as some death certificates and a recording machine. After hearing the crash and screaming again outside the house, Arthur follows Spider upstairs. The previously locked room is now open and a noise can be heard from inside. It is a child's playroom and a ball is bouncing there. Arthur finds a toy soldier in his hand. When he hears the voice of a boy, he runs away. Spider runs out of the house into the night. Arthur listen to Mrs Drablow's sound recordings, in which she says that she refuses to be frightened by the ghost as it is a relative of hers.

Toovey, alerted by Spider's return, arrives to take Arthur away. He tells Arthur that Mrs Drablow had adopted the illegitimate son of her sister. The sister went mad and tried to take the boy back, but they were both killed when their pony and trap fell in to the marsh. They visit the nursery and find that the all the furniture and toys in the room have been smashed. Arthur collapses. Toovey takes Arthur back to the hotel to recover. He tells him that the sightings of the woman in black always mean that a child will die. That night Arthur finds the toy soldier and hears the boy's voice. As he lies in bed, the woman in black swoops down on Arthur and he screams.

Arthur is joined by his wife, and eventually they return to London, after learning that Eel Marsh House has mysteriously burned down. Arthur goes back to work and realises that Sweetman knew of the woman in black and that this was why he didn't want to deal with Mrs Drablow's estate. Arthur sets fire to Mrs Drablow's papers in his office and the fire brigade have to be called in. Arthur goes on a trip on the lake with his wife and children. He sees the woman in black standing on the lake. A tree crashes down and kills the family.