WOMAN IN BLACK
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jane.
While ominous music plays over the opening scene, three young sisters have a tea party with their dolls. They are in a nursery. The sisters suddenly stop playing and stare in the camera’s direction, at something (or someone) the audience cannot see. Their faces grow blank, and they walk towards three tall narrow windows, crushing their tea set in the process. The trio reaches the window together. The scene outside grows very bright as the girls jump from the windows. Moments later the audience hears a horrified woman scream, “My babies!”
During the fog-filled opening credits the audience sees disembodied scenes from the courtship of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) and his wife Stella (Sophia Stuckey). Her wedding veil, him sliding a wedding band onto her finger, him placing his hand on her very pregnant belly.
An unhappy looking Kipps stands in front of a mirror and lightly runs a razor across his neck. His wife appears behind him in the mirror, and he turns around to greet her. But there is nobody there. Kipps grabs his suitcase and goes downstairs.
Kipps’ four-year-old son Joseph (Misha Handley) shows his father a coloring book he made. The first page shows what will happen on Monday. Joseph has drawn their house in London, his nanny, himself, his mother (up in heaven), and his father, walking away from the house. Kipps’ asks why the drawing of him looks unhappy, and Joseph explains that that is how Kipps’ face looks. Joseph wishes his father did not have to leave him. Kipps assures Joseph that on Friday, Joseph and his nanny will come to the countryside and join him. Kipps flips through Joseph’s coloring book each page a different day of the week and the ‘Friday’ page shows Joseph and Kipps standing in front of a train. Joseph’s nanny enters, and Kipps grills her to make sure she has their train tickets and knows when to come. Kipps steps outside, bids a final farewell to Joseph, and goes to work.
Kipps sits in his boss’s office. The men are lawyers, and it seems that Kipps is not performing as well as his boss would like him to. His boss acknowledges that Kipps’ family has gone through some recent hardships but that, if Kipps fails on his upcoming business trip, he will be fired. His boss then hands Kipps an envelope and explains that he will travel to the countryside to settle the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. Mrs. Drablow, a widow whose young son died years ago, lived in Eel Marsh House. She has mountains of paperwork to sort through, and Kipps will spend the next few days doing the sorting. The firm will then sell the house. A local man named Jerome is supposed to assist Kipps, but according to Kipps’ boss, Jerome hasn’t been cooperating.
Kipps falls asleep on his train ride to Crythin Gifford, the small town nearest Eel Marsh House. He dreams of the night his wife died giving birth to Joseph. When he awakes, Daily (Ciarán Hinds) and his terrier are watching him. Daily introduces himself and deduces that Kipps is from London and headed to Crythin Gifford to sell Eel Marsh House. Daily offers to give Kipps a ride from the train station to the inn.
Rain pours down upon Crythin Gifford as Daily drives Kipps to an inn. According to Daily, his was the first car in the county. Kipps thanks Daily for the ride and accepts the older man’s invitation to dinner with his wife and himself the next evening.
Kipps enters the inn and is greeted with chilly stares from its patrons. He gives his name to the innkeeper and explains that his office should have telegrammed ahead with his reservation. The innkeeper tells Kipps that he received no such telegram and that the inn is completely booked. His hostility towards Kipps grows when he learns that Joseph, a young boy, will be coming to town at the end of the week. The innkeeper’s wife enters the room and convinces her husband to allow Kipps to stay in their attic for one night.
The innkeeper’s wife and Kipps talk as she takes him upstairs. When she learns he has a soon, she seems a little taken aback but says that “four is a lovely age.” She adds that Kipps’ firm will not be able to find a local buyer for Eel Marsh House. She shows Kipps into the attic, which is also the nursery from the opening scene. It still contains the girls’ dolls, and Kipps sees pictures of the daughters.
The next morning Kipps searches the town for Jerome’s office. Various children watch him, including the three Hardy siblings. Mr. Hardy glares at Kipps and shoos his children inside.
When he enters Jerome’s house and office, he hears something downstairs. Jerome’s wife comes up from downstairs carrying a tray. When she sees Kipps she guesses who he is and tells him her husband went to look for him at the inn. Jerome (Tim McMullan) returns and hands Kipps the will of Alice Drablow. He tells Kipps the journey to Crythin Gifford was not necessary and that he has hired a coach to take Kipps back to the train station. He obviously wants Kipps to leave town.
Kipps bribes the coach driver into taking him over the marsh and to Eel Marsh House. During the ride the audience gets its first glimpse of Eel Marsh House: a mansion surrounded by a small forest. A narrow road connects the house to the mainland, but by conversing with the coach driver Kipps learns that when the tide comes in it covers the path. The coach driver deposits Kipps at the bottom of a path that leads to Eel March House. He will come back at five.
Kipps begins walking to the house. He enters the forest and sees an overgrown cemetery with large ornate headstones. He enters Eel Marsh House and wanders before getting down to work.
Kipps sits at a table piled high with old papers. He sorts through different stacks and comes across seven cheerful cards. They are all addressed to Nathaniel Drablow from his mother, Alice, and his father, Charles. Kipps also finds Nathaniel’s death certificate. The Drablow heir drowned in the marsh when he was seven; the body was never recovered. Alice Drablow also wrote frightened messages like, ‘She will haunt me to my grave,’ across a set of drawings.
Something moves about upstairs. Kipps goes to investigate. He enters a bedroom and finds a crow’s nest built in the fireplace. A puny baby bird has fallen from the nest, and Kipps places it in the nest again. The mother crow comes shooting out of the chimney and startles Kipps. He tries to let the crow out by opening a window. He is surprised to see a woman dressed in a black gown with a black veil standing in the garden. The crow momentarily distracts him, and when he looks back, the woman has gone.
Kipps goes outside and investigates the graveyard. He finds a grave for Nathaniel as well as one for Jennet, who was Alice Drablow’s “beloved” sister. He hears a commotion coming from the marshes. It sounds as if someone’s carriage has crashed. Kipps races off to help them.
A thick fog makes it impossible for Kipps to see far ahead of him. As he calls out to the crash victims, he has visions of the accident: a horse-drawn carriage has crashed into the muddy marsh and is sinking. A woman has managed to escape, but a young boy is still trapped in the carriage. Kipps begins to stumble through the fog, and suddenly he runs into the coach driver.
Back in Crythin Gifford, Kipps goes straight to the police station. He reports the carriage accident to the elderly constable, but the constable assures him that nobody in the town would use the road to Eel Marsh House. Kipps explains that he saw a woman out at the house, and the constable reacts with unease. He goes back into his office. Moments later the Harding brothers drag their lethargic sister Victoria into the office. The brothers tell Kipps that their mother is out and Victoria drank lye. Kipps panics and calls for the constable, who doesn’t come. Victoria begins to vomit blood, and the sound fades as the young girl pitches into Kipps’ arms.
Kipps stands in front of the Harding home. Reminiscent of the first scene, a woman screams, “My baby!” He hears Mrs. Harding sobbing and watches as a inconsolable Mr. Harding carries his daughter’s body out of their home. The innkeeper and his wife arrive, as does Jerome, and they all eye Kipps with distaste.
Kipps returns to Jerome’s office. He looks down and sees someone moving through the spaces between the floorboards. He goes downstairs and discovers that Jerome has locked his daughter Lucy in a basement bedroom. Lucy screams at Kipps to leave and tells him that “he saw her” and that it’s all his fault. She says he has made her unsafe.
Daily stands in front of an ornate mausoleum. Kipps, who has arrived for dinner, finds him there. Daily tells that his son Nicholas is interred in the mausoleum. He has heard about Victoria Harding’s death and asks Kipps not to speak of the tragedy, or about children, in front of his wife Julia. Julia was devastated over the loss of Nicholas and does not respond well when confronted with tragedy or children.
The men enter a lavish sitting room decorated with paintings of the late Nicholas Daily. If Nicholas were alive, he would be Kipps’ age. Julia enters the room and greets Kipps warmly. Daily tells his wife that the twins will not dine with them this evening, but Kipps says he wouldn’t mind their company. Daily looks chagrined as his wife fetches their twins not two children but two white Chihuahuas dressed in sailor suits.
At dinner, Julia spoon-feeds the twins, who sit in small doggy high chairs. The couple believes that Kipps will return to London in the morning, but he tells them he must stay. When Julia hears he has nowhere to stay, she and Daily offer to let Kipps stay with them. Eventually Julia learns that Kipps has a son, and she begins to talk about Nicholas. She suddenly enters a trance, and Daily explains that his wife believes their dead son communicates with them through her. He calls for a servant to bring a sedative as Julia begins to carve something into the table. Julia screams as her husband restrains her and sedates her with a chloroform soaked cloth.
Later that night Daily discusses his wife’s breakdown with Kipps. Kipps tells him about his deceased wife, and the men talk about the validity of séances. Daily feels that séances and mediums prey upon innocent grieving people. When people die, according to him, they go to heaven. Kipps says he remains hopeful that he could somehow make contact with his wife.
Before going to bed that night, Kipps notices a painting in his room. Three figures stand on a beach, their backs turned to the painter. A woman in black stands on the sand while two boys, one in gray and the other in a sailor suit, walk into the ocean. Kipps leaves his room and passes by a half opened doorway. Inside, Julia sings to her twin Chihuahuas as she rocks them in a crib. Kipps makes his way to the dining room and sees what Julia carved into the table: a hanged figure.
The next morning Daily drives Kipps out to Eel Marsh House. Kipps tells Daily that if he does not complete this job, he will be fired. A group of villagers, including the innkeeper, Mr. Harding, and Jerome, try to block the car from driving onto the marsh road. They tell Kipps to go back to London and tell him he’s done enough by “seeing her.” Daily pretends that he will drive Kipps to the train station but instead guns his car at the men. They scatter, and the pair drive onto the marsh road.
Kipps asks Daily what the villagers meant. Daily tells Kipps that those men are just backwards and superstitious. He deposits Kipps at Eel Marsh House, and Kipps says he will work through the night. Daily gives Kipps his terrier for company.
As he works in the house, Kipps begins to hear and see scary things. He hears a rocking noise coming from upstairs. He runs upstairs to investigate, but the noise comes from behind a locked door. Kipps goes to the basement and finds an axe. When he returns to chop open the door, he finds it standing wide open.
The rocking noise continues. Kipps enters the bedroom and sees a rocking chair moving of its own accord. He walks towards the window and looks outside. A ghostly face, covered by a veil, appears beside him. Kipps looks down at a cushion covering the bedroom’s window seat. He removes the cushion and finds that the top of the window seat opens. He lifts the window seat’s lid and discovers a bundle of cards and letters. He finds a set of cards very similar to the ones that Alice and Charles Drablow gave Nathaniel on his birthday. Kipps opens one of the cards. ‘Happy birthday, Nathaniel. Love, Mummy.’
Downstairs, Kipps reads through the stack of letters. The letters are from Jennet to Alice and explain the origin of the woman in black. Jennet was Nathaniel’s real mother, and according to her, her sister and brother-in-law had her declared an unfit mother. They sent her to a madhouse and raised Nathaniel as her own. Much to Jennet’s fury, the Drablows would not even give Nathaniel the birthday cards she sent him. Jennet vowed to reclaim her son from Alice and Charles. In a letter written after Nathaniel’s death, Jennet accuses her sister of abandoning her son after their carriage crashed in the marsh so she could save her own life. Jennet swore she would have her revenge and that she would “never forgive. Never forgive.” Kipps looks at a picture of Charles, Alice, and Nathaniel Drablow standing in front of Eel Marsh House. Upon closer inspection, he sees a woman lurking in an upstairs window. He finds another death certificate, this one for Jennet. She hung herself from a beam in one of Eel Marsh House’s upstairs bedrooms.
Kipps falls asleep. The door to the room he is in leads to a spacious gallery, and at the other end of the gallery is another open door. The woman in black stands in the other doorway, and she slowly moves towards Kipps. Daily’s terrier barks, and the woman in black comes closer and closer. Finally Kipps startles awake. Except for Daily’s terrier, his is alone. He looks down and sees that the picture of the Drablows has been vandalized: someone scratched the faces of Alice and Charles.
Daily’s terrier barks at the window. It is raining heavily. Kipps glances out at the marsh. He sees a large iron cross that was placed at the sight of the Drablows’ carriage accident. To his horror, he sees a small figure climb out of the mud and make its way towards the house.
Kipps runs downstairs when he hears someone knocking at the door. Daily’s terrier barks continuously at the door. Someone outside begins to turn the doorknob but cannot get the door to open. Finally Kipps summons his courage and opens the door. No one is there. He stumbles out into the rain. He is terrified to see clusters of dead, gray children standing in the forest: the innkeeper’s girls, Victoria Harding, Nicholas Daily in his sailor suit. He rushes back inside.
Kipps slams the door shut, and he recoils when he sees wet footprints leading upstairs. He follows the footsteps to the bedroom with the inexplicably rocking chair. Suddenly the woman in black appears to him. She stands on the top of the rocking chair and then hangs herself, the momentum of her jump causing the chair to rock. Kipps turns and sees a muddy screaming boy. He runs to another bedroom.
After locking himself in that bedroom, Kipps sees a huge black stain begin to spread on the bed. Something begins to rise from the sheets. He runs downstairs, throws open the door, and finds Daily standing there. It is morning.
On their car ride into town, Kipps explains his night to an incredulous Daily. When they arrive in town they discover that Jerome’s home is on fire. Jerome and his wife scream for their daughter, who is trapped inside the flaming home.
Kipps runs into the house and heads downstairs. He manages to break down Lucy’s door and sees the girl standing in a corner. She looks at him and then at the black clad woman in the corner. Lucy stares at the woman in black and raises a lantern above her head. Kipps screams at her to stop. Lucy throws the lantern to the ground and bursts into flames. Kipps runs out of the burning home without her.
Later that day Kipps finds Julia standing outside of Nicholas’s mausoleum. She tells him not to blame himself. He asks her what she means. Julia explains that soon after someone sees the woman in black children will die tragically. She goes into a trance, and the dead children speak through her. They tell Kipps that the woman in black makes them hurt themselves. She stands over Nicholas and his gray clad friend, the boys in the painting, and makes them drown themselves. She makes the innkeeper’s daughters jump out of their windows. Daily finds them just as Julia begins to carve something on the mausoleum. Daily drags his wife back to their home, and Kipps sees what Julia drew: a replica of Joseph’s ‘Friday’ picture. Kipps remembers that his son and the nanny will depart from London in a few hours.
Kipps and Daily race towards town. They want to telegram the nanny and tell her not to bring Joseph to Crythin Gifford at all. Kipps convinces Daily that the woman in black exists and that she killed Nicholas.
When Daily and Kipps arrive in town, they remember that Jerome owned the only telegraph. The next nearest telegraph is an hour away, and Joseph will be on the train by then. Kipps decides that they must find Nathaniel’s body and reunite it with his mother’s spirit. Daily does not believe they can do it, but Kipps reminds Daily that they have a car.
Out on the marsh, Kipps ties a rope around his waist. He ties the other end to the front of Daily’s car. He steps into the mud and begins to sink. Kipps is almost completely submerged by the time he reaches the cross. He feels the carriage beneath his feet and dives into the mud so he can tie the rope to the carriage. He does not reemerge, and a concerned Daily puts his car in reverse. Finally he drags Kipps, and the carriage, out of the marsh. Kipps grabs Nathaniel’s body and leaps out of the carriage.
Back at Eel Marsh House, Kipps has bathed. He has wrapped Nathaniel’s body in a shroud and places Jennet’s cards around the corpse. In order to attract Jennet, he winds up Nathaniel’s musical toys.
Downstairs, Daily hears his son’s voice. He chases Nicholas into a room, and the door slams shut. A ghostly woman appears outside the window and shrieks.
Kipps looks out into the hallway. He sees the woman in black standing at the other end of the hallway. She moves towards him, extinguishing lights as she passes them. Finally she comes shrieking into the bedroom. She charges Kipps and zooms around her son’s body. She shrieks again and then disappears.
Downstairs, the door opens and Daily steps into the hallway. He finds Kipps upstairs. Kipps believes that they have reunited Jennet and Nathaniel.
It is Friday morning. The men break open Jennet’s tomb and place Nathanial’s body in her casket. They drive back to Crythin Gifford to meet Joseph and his nanny at the train station.
In one of the bedrooms at Eel Marsh House, Jennet’s furious voice promises that she will never forgive, never forgive.
Kipps and Joseph hug one another when they are reunited. Kipps tells the nanny that they will be returning to London immediately; he instructs her to buy them tickets. While holding Joseph’s hand, Kipps bids Daily a fond farewell. The sound fades as Joseph looks across the station and sees the woman in black. Kipps does not notice when Joseph begins walking towards the oncoming train. The nanny buys their tickets from a stationmaster, and she screams when she turns around. A horrified Kipps sees that Joseph is on the train tacks and walking towards the oncoming train. He dives onto the tracks and grabs Joseph right as the train reaches them.
The train passes through the station. Daily looks into its windows and sees the woman in black’s victims on the opposite platform. The train disappears, and he approaches the tracks slowly.
Kipps and Joseph are unharmed. They hid in the side of the tracks as the train passed. Kipps straightens up and looks for Daily and the nanny. But the train station is deserted. Joseph points to someone and asks, “Daddy, who is that lady?” Kipps turns and smiles. “That’s your mother.” Stella beckons her husband and her son to her, and the reunited family walks down the train tracks together.
The woman in black sits in darkness. She turns and stares at the audience