Case Study: The Woman in Black

There are a number of scenes of supernatural horror and threat in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’, as well as the ghosts of her victims, appear to and threaten the central character and others. The BBFC’s Guidelines at ’12A’/’12’ state ‘Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, providing disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained’. In this uncut version of the film, the scenes of threat and horror are stronger and more sustained than in the ’12A’/’12’ version and therefore more appropriately classified at ’15’. The film includes a scene in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’ hangs herself from a noose, including sight and sound of her neck breaking. It also includes a scene in which a young girl smashes an oil lamp, causing herself to burst into flames. She is subsequently seen walking forwards, engulfed in fire. Both these scenes were originally reduced in order to achieve a ’12A’ classification at the cinema and a ’12’ on video. However, the uncut versions of these scenes are more appropriately classified at ’15’ where the Guidelines state ‘Strong threat and horror are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised’.

The BBFC received 134 letters complaining that the 12A category was too dark for the content of the film.


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