The Woman In Black: book or movie first?

Spooky house

Now here’s a house with atmosphere. It would be easy to whip up a ghost story here…Wait. Is that somebody peeking out of an upstairs window? No, it must have been a trick of the light. Maybe? Image courtesy of mensatic, Morguefile.

Readers, I’d love your advice today. I’m in a quandary about which to look at first — a book or a movie.

Years ago, I acted as a volunteer usher at a local theater and saw a play called “The Woman In Black,” based on the book written by British author Susan Hill. This play was very, very scary and I will never forget this show. The play only uses two actors, who had the entire audience mesmerized under their terrifying spell. The stage lighting, sound effects and other elements of a theatrical performance only enhanced the fear.

This performance also had one supremely comic moment that night. At one point, Arthur Kipps walks upstage to check out a mysterious noise which turns out to be a rocking chair, rocking by itself. One audience member off to my right quavered, “Don’t go in there!” which had everyone within hearing distance erupting into nervous giggles (including yours truly). We were all unnerved anyway and it was a convenient way to release our own tension.

So this month, I have it in mind to read the Susan Hill book and to watch the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Cierán Hinds to see if they live up to the play I saw. But I’m not sure which to get first: the book or the movie. From the clips I’ve seen on YouTube of the movie, it looks like all the good elements are there: scary story, lots of atmosphere, not too much gore, deserted but gorgeous English mansion, and two actors whose work I like. Or would it be better to stroll through the book first since there may be some plot points or characters that were left out in the movie?

Another spooky house

OK, I look at this place and think secret passages, mysterious noises, ghosts flitting behind window draperies…oh, drat it, now I’ve got to go and write something! Image courtesy of hotblack, Morguefile.

One thing’s for sure: When I’m reading the book or watching the movie, I’m definitely going to do both in broad daylight. 😉 Or keep somebody with me for company if I’m watching the video at night.

What are your opinions, blog readers? Book or movie first?



Filed under Writing

23 responses to “The Woman In Black: book or movie first?

  1. I think you should watch the movie first. Reading the book first will leave you with a lot of expectations which in most cases is not met by the movie. I’ve been disappointed so many times that now I watch the movie and then go to the book. I’m totally with you on the ‘broad daylight’ aspect. 🙂

  2. Most of the time, I like to read the book first. I then have my own picture of the characters and setting that is built by the descriptions of the author. When I watch the movie first, I the have the characters from the movie in my head while reading the book and sometimes miss critical character development points. Sometimes a great movie based on a book will help me find a new author to read and I get to learn much more detail than what the movie provided.

    When given the choice, I definitely would choose the book first if I have the time.

  3. In most cases the movie is not as good as the book. So, I would watch the movie and then read the book (the idea of going from good to better).

  4. I’d say go for the book first.

  5. I vote book first! I always try to read the book first when I’m going to see a movie – mainly because of the point you made, that there may be plot elements that are left out of the movie. But since you’ve already seen the play, you probably know the plot pretty well. Still, I’m a book-first-movie-second person!

  6. You should watch the movie, then read the book otherwise you will spend the whole film thinking ‘The Book Was Better’! 🙂

  7. I would probably watch the movie first. I have discovered that if I read the book and then watch the movie, I find myself shouting at the screen telling them the scripts all wrong and it’s nothing like the book, inevitably I never watch the movie all the way through. For some odd reason, I can read the book after the movie and it doesn’t cause me the same distress! I haven’t read or watched Woman in Black so it will be interesting to see what other bloggers think and fun to discover what choice you make and what you think of them both. Coincidentally, I would have to watch it in daylight too! 😉

  8. I have a rough rule of thumb by which I read good books first but if reviews of a book are not so great, I’ll try the film first. As regards The Woman in Black, I would certainly suggest reading the book first. While I’m a fan of Ciaran Hinds, I’m not sure that Daniel Radcliffe has the wherewithal. In any case, however good the film is, I don’t think it can beat book or stage. I hope this helps!

  9. I tend to prefer to read the book first, then watch the movie. Usually, the book is better and it is always interesting to see how they cast the characters.

  10. In regard to reading a book first or seeing the movie. I prefer to see a movie first because then I don’t get irritated by the changes in the story, and therefore do not annoy fellow moviegoers. 😉

  11. While I’m not familiar with the work itself, I’ve always preferred reading a text before watching it. Sounds interestingly spooky, I just might check it out myself. 😉

  12. I’m always a big fan of reading the books first, but since I’m not typically a big fan of horror, I’m planning on seeing the movie and not reading the book, mostly to see how Daniel Radcliffe does outside of Harry Potter.

  13. Book first, for sure! Why? Because that is the story as it was originally told. The movie is generally an adaptation and changed to suit the tastes of a viewing audience. In my opinion, those changes don’t improve the story.

    Take Seabiscuit, the non-fiction phenom of a book by Laura Hillenbrand. That book had enough true action to go right to the movie screen as it was written. But the movie changed the facts of the book, therefore the facts of history.

    I am invariably disappointed by a movie based on a book I’ve read. But I would rather be disappointed for a couple of hours than watch the movie first and read the book (which will take days if not weeks) and wonder about the discrepancies.

  14. I read a recent review of the movie, she said she was disappointed, and that it could have been better.
    Though I haven’t seen either, I would still say the book, you’ll be the director… there’s nothing better than our imagination.

  15. I always like the book first because of the potential of additional meaning or significance to an event that just can’t be made in a movie. BUT…. sometimes it is nice to have the setting and characters already in my head to attach all the reading to. So, did I not help at all? Haha

  16. And currently, I’m at 8 people for book first, 6 for movie first. Hmmm. Maybe I should have started a PollDaddy account!

  17. Usually I like to read the book first and then see how it is adapted to the screen or stage. But sometimes I enjoy being thoroughly surprised by a wonderful movie, not having any idea what to expect next. Since you’re already familiar with this storyline, I would say go ahead and watch the movie then read the book. For me, a scary movie might be too creepy so I might read the book first to take the edge off. Or, like another comment skip the book because I’m not much of a horror movie/book person. How’s that for flip-flopping and indecision?? I enjoy your posts!

    • Thanks for adding your thoughts, Tea! It’s strange; sometimes the movie seems to enhance the book. For the script, they have to delete some things because there isn’t enough time for all the dialogue. But I love watching good actors bring characters to life.

      In this case, the book/movie differ a little from the play. I think I’m going to enjoy exploring the differences.

  18. nzumel

    Generally I’m of the opinion that the book will be better than the movie, so see the movie first. But just to play devil’s advocate, sometimes the movie is better: The Shining, Blade Runner, The Manchurian Candidate (the Frank Sinatra movie, not the Will Smith one). Maybe The Princess Bride. But even in those cases, the book has details that the movie skimmed over, so it’s still worth it to experience both. And still movie first…


  20. Mo

    As a writer, I go for book first. A picture can say a thousand words, fine but then it doesn’t leave you a lot of room for imagination, does it. Words carry you away and you take the writer’s words and form your own world from them as you understand them. No movie can give you that.

  21. Since I don’t know anything about this book (or movie, or play), I will vote for the book. Now scurrying over to your most recent blog post to see what you decided!


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