Posted on


Right now, out on general cinema release this week, is the new film adaptation of SUSAN HILL’S THE WOMAN IN BLACK, starring DANIEL RADCLIFFE in his first lead role since leaving the HARRY POTTER franchise. It is also the lates new movie from the returning HAMMER HORROR film studio, and they seem to have a huge amount riding on its success.

What is now interesting, is that I have learned that apparently the script has changed really quite considerably from the book. This does often happen to various degrees when well known novels are taken to the big screen, but this seems to have many narratively significant possibly even controvertial changes.

The screenplay has been written by JANE GOLDMAN, a very talented screenwriter responsible for great recent adaptations including KICK ASS, X-MEN:FIRST CLASS and STARDUST. I do really admire her writing, and skill in taking these various sources successfully to screen from books and comic book origins. Here though with THE WOMAN IN BLACK, it comes from a very well respected and highly acclaimed novel and then stage play also. It is a tale with a large collected audience, well established over decades who most likely are very fond of the text and power of it. It has been a brave and playful choice of HAMMER and GOLDMAN to make these numerous changes to the story which apparently are in some ways alter the tale greatly.

From THE GODFATHER to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, DRACULA to DUNE, just how much should a story change from novel to film? A book is one distinct art form, film another very seperate kind. Each can do and achieve very different results and responsed and should be read and viewed in their own ways. Does that mean that a film adaptation should actually be distorted and rearranged very radically in order for it to reach the big screen?

When a successful novel-or unsuccessful even-is adapted to screen, it has a loyal audience of readers who can very likely be upset or angered with a bad film or accepting and surprised at a good one. Should the existing fans of the book or original sounce simply be forgotten or ignored in the process, treating it as a brand new project, a new interpretation?

That is how I see that they have viewed this adaptation of THE WOMAN IN BLACK, as seperate to the book and the play. It is simply a new interpretation, a different view and vision of the original concept, and that is fine.

Then, interestingly, there will be folk who enjoy the film and later read or come across the book or play and find that strange or even wrong to their view of the story.

Film adaptation will possibly never be perfect, but they will always be something new and different alongside the original book.



Author of science fiction novels Orbital Kin and Minerva Century-also horror, literary fiction, many short stories and screenplays. Always reading, writing, watching films, playing guitar/bass, and am a husband with a coffee addiction. New horror novel due for 2017. This is my blog, offshoot from my website. It will be where I post current thoughts, opinions, views, reviews, or discussions about contemporary film, movies, books, video games, television series mostly in the horror, science fiction, fantasy and their sub-genre offshoots. The entertainment not in the mainstream (for the most part) and proud of it. Also follow me on twitter- @ParsonsFiction, and facebook - James E Parsons


  1. I agree with your thoughts on screen adaptations. I think many books converting to film adaptations need to be changed as a necessity. A good example is the Dan Brown novel, The DaVinci Code. Trying to fit all the points of the novel into the movie made for a very boring and long winded film. Any Lovecraft adaptation needs to be changed also. Lovecraft writes with flashbacks within flashbacks, often a person relaying a story that another had told them about a third person. Imagine trying to follow all of that in a movie. Anyways, I do look forward to seeing The Woman In Black and hopefully some successful non-hollywood-cliche’ style films from the new Hammer co.

  2. Yes, there were similar problems famously with DAVID LYNCH’S DUNE adaptation. Stupendously huge budget, and bombed awfully in the early eighties. So much information needed forced into the start of the movie, just too much. It is good in places, but then a later TV series seems to have had a better go at adapting DUNE with all of the plots, subplots etc.

  3. I understand too about LOVECRAFT adaptations, always problematic it seems. But continually interesting to see how others tackle the tales.

    • My favorite Lovecraft adaptations are by Stuart Gordon, specifically Masters of Horror/ Dreams in the Witch House (which is a very close adaptation but set in modern times) and Dagon which was a less closer adaptation but really captured the atmosphere and terror of The Innsmouth story. (which he set in the Mediterranean rather than New England.)

  4. Yes, I really liked the Masters of Horror version, bizarre but great. Yes, very Lovercraft and I do like the Gordon stuff too. Brave interpretations.

  5. sjhigbee

    Having seen the film yesterday and knowing the play well, I very much take your point about adapting a film for the vagaries of the medium. Mostly, the film adaptation was well done – however, the strong, chilling end that worked so well with the play was lacking. It was interesting that my husband, who didn’t know the play, found the ending creepy and effective, whilst I felt slightly cheated. Thought that Radcliffe acquitted himself very well and consider the film to be a sharply clever move on Hammer’s part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s