There is some hype surrounding director James Watkins’ film “The Woman in Black”. For one thing, Watkins has been known for the sleeper horror hit “Eden Lake”, this film resurrects the almost forgotten British horror studio “Hammer”, and for the last thing, it is Daniel Radcliffe’s first post “Harry Potter” role. Now does the hype stand up to the quality of the final film? Well, it is a well-made film, and admittedly it has its merits as a supernatural horror film. It also brings 22-year old Radcliffe in his first truly mature role. But the story feels rather contrived and it feels that we’ve all seen this before.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer who had recently lost his wife (Sophie Stuckey) during child birth. Arthur now lives with his son and is struggling with some financial problems, and so he takes the assignment to handle the estate Alice Drablow who owned Eel Marsh. Upon arrival, things seem to be rather strange, as the townsfolk seem to be clinging on to some old superstition, and they appear determined to keep Arthur away from the estate. But Arthur is relentless in fulfilling his task, and befriends Sam (Ciaran Hinds), a local landowner. Now, seems like Arthur should have done well to listen to the locals and stayed away from Eel Marsh, as he seemed to have awakened a long dormant curse…..
The script by Jane Goldman was based on the novel by Susan Hill which is set in the early years of the 20th century. Much of the film’s premise is reminiscent of other horror films and the direction does not try to hide this fact. “The Woman in Black” is a clear cut-out of classic horror films with a story that we’ve seen many times before. A angry force that seeks out vengeance and this revenge comes in the form of taking the lives of children is something really unsettling, there is also the way how practical thinking can hide us from the truth, and a cautionary tale that serves as a warning for those who doesn’t heed strong warnings. We’ve all seen this before, and while the film plays devices that prove to be really predictable (especially for horror fans), I have to commend the effort and thought in the rendition of the film itself. It is competently written, and the execution was solid enough despite some rough edges.
I have to say that the film successfully recreates this period in time. The set designs are excellent and the gothic atmosphere does work. The direction knew what it wanted to convey, and it does succeed in bringing the right amount of creepiness to keep it moving. The scares are a little uneven though, as some are more suspenseful while some others feel like they were a little cheap in the jump scare department. We’ve all seen these tricks before; shadows and reflections that move, objects that go by themselves, shadowy ghoulish figures that move in the night, apparitions that give me one goose bumps--these are things that have proven effective in the past so I cannot blame the direction for using proven tricks.
Despite the fact that the film reminded me a lot of a Pang brothers or Takashi Shimizu horror film wrapped around a classic gothic horror backdrop, I thought Watkins had the proper skill to pull off the scares anyway, and the film did give me some credible scares and chills at certain points. I was very impressed with the film’s light and dark effects, and the make up effects were really done well. For some reason, areas reminded me of “Insidious”, but I am not sure why. The writing was strong, but I felt that it could not maintain its momentum for very long, as good as the scares were, predictability always turns its ugly head.
I suppose while the predictable plot weakened some of the film’s effect on me, a film like this can only succeed if the lead is capable of carrying the film, since much of it relies on Radcliffe’s acting talent. I am happy that the young man wanted to take on a more mature role and he is a good actor, but Radcliffe is 22 years old and he looks his age. Despite his feeble attempt to grow a beard (some shots looked like they were air-brushed), and his effort to act like a man who has a son (who may be at least 5 or 7), I cannot get past his boyish features. Radcliffe (with all due respect to his performance) was miscast, this role needed a much stronger looking actor with a sympathetic personality. Luckily, Hinds does appear capable of lending our young star some support. When Arthur wasn’t alone, the dialogue and scenes flowed smoothly. I was also quite taken with Janet McTeer’s performance as she lends both subtle humor and unease in the screenplay.
“The Woman in Black” may not become a classic horror film, but it sure was a competent one that it earns a light recommendation. Watkins knew how to shoot and pace a horror film, and the film was successful with its intentions. It is an enjoyable film, and my qualms about it may simply stem from the fact that I was just being me watching a little too much films in the horror genre and I see horror differently from most people. I should remember that it is PG-13, and usually this is a stamp for cliché in the horror department.
From the first frame of this movie, you know bad things will happen. Everything on the screen, soundtrack, and dialogue is so dark and full of foreboding sounds and dark colors that it almost felt like an old Saturday afternoon Hammer film (hint: it is a Hammer film! They're back, and apparently not much has changed since . . . !!!!). I was almost expecting a title card saying "It was a dark and stormy night. . . . " The unrelieved gloom and doom … more
*** out of **** There's a fascinating scene in "The Woman in Black" where an eye scans a condensed room through a peephole in the door that conceals all that lies within it. The camera, mimicking the eye, moves from place-to-place; perhaps hoping to see or find something worth writing home about. After a few considerably well-spent seconds of searching; a shadow appears from out of the corner of the eye. The camera chases the source of this apparition; and it appears almost … more
Star Rating: An early twentieth century setting. English marshland shrouded in fog. Rain, thunder, and lightning. A graveyard shrouded in ivy and dead twigs. A decaying mansion high atop a hill. Rooms blanketed in dust and cobwebs. Dark hallways faintly lit by candlelight. The sounds of whispers and crying bouncing off the walls. A shadowy figure stalking the premises. From the first frame to the last, The Woman in Black looks and feels exactly the way … more
In the early 1900s, young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to a remote village to go through the papers of a recently deceased old woman. He finds the villagers oddly hostile, yet sets about his work in the woman’s creepy, old house. There, he begins to unravel the story of a mysterious woman believed to haunt the place. If you’re looking for a scary movie, look no further. There are scares every four minutes or so once Arthur starts (voluntarily … more
Hey hey! Anyone looking for a little extra insight into THE WOMAN IN BLACK, should check out my interview with its star, Daniel Radcliffe ... http://www.blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/20...s-daniel-radcliffe.html Thanks for reading!
Opens tomorrow, February 3, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 35 min.
Thematic material and violence/disturbing images
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), recently widowed and still grieving the loss of his wife, is sent to a remote village to put a deceased eccentric's affairs in order. But soon after his arrival, it becomes clear that the villagers are hiding a deadly secret. Kipps discovers that his late client's house is haunted by the spirit of a woman who is trying to find someone and something she lost, and that no one -- not even the children -- is safe from her terrible wrath.