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The Woman in Black

A movie directed by James Watkins

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Sledgehammer scares turn into OK story

  • Feb 9, 2012
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 from the start is almost laughable and silly.

But as the story takes shape, the gloom and doom eases up enough to keep you wondering and wanting to know what, when, who, and why will fly at you from a dark corner or foggy night (The bump-in-the-night shriek-o-meter totaled 3 for me by the end of the movie).  But the real revelation of the movie was Daniel Radcliffe; he isn't just Harry Potter.  He does a quite creditable job as the lead, and redeems what might be hammy scenes with his youthful ability, delivery, and looks. 

Radcliffe plays a young lawyer who is a widowed father whose beloved wife died in childbirth, and he is having some kind of (vague but unspecified) trouble at work probably related to the stresses of raising a young son as a single parent in 1920s England.  His firm sends him off to the northern marshes to investigate the estate papers of a mysterious woman (in black).  Once there in that claustrophic, dark, and wet little village, he finds, as fits the general tone of foreboding, that he is a hated and unwanted outsider, and when he goes out to the haunted old mansion on the coast  (isolated at high tide, of course; the director misses no chance to crank up the gloom machine) things really get spooky. 

One interesting fact about the context of the movie that is briefly highlighted on screen by a newspaper headline that we see Radcliffe reading is that in the years following the Great War, there was a  sharp increase in interest in spiritism, sparked by Arthur Conan Doyle, the immensely popular and beloved creator of Sherlock Holmes who had lost a son in the war.  Seances, ectoplasm, automatic writing, and oracles from beyond the grave were the stuff of both high and low popular culture and entertainment and even given some spiritual and scientific credence at the time.  Radcliffe and his older protector in the village even have a debate about belief in such things, with the younger Radcliffe taking the side of belief. 

But as Radcliffe investigates the past events that left the house haunted and the villagers gaunt and suspicious of outsiders, the story starts to take precedence over the scares, until the resolution at the end, which certainly comes somewhat abruptly, and may come as a surprise, but not of the from-the-grave kind like Carrie.

This isn't a great movie, its is only just barely a good movie, mostly because of Daniel Radcliffe.  But it isn't the worst of the genre.  And on the plus side of the ledger, the gore factor is low enough that I think the young-to-mid teen crowd who may be interested in it because of Harry Potter can see it without too many bad dreams afterward. 

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February 09, 2012
Nice review. I actually thought that the direction was pretty successful in giving its viewer a feeling of dread and the set designs were very good. I thought Radcliffe, while a good actor was miscast since he could not properly connect with the portrayal of a man who had suffered emotional pain and financial issues. Thanks for sharing!
February 09, 2012
Since writing my review I have looked at the other reviews (I prefer not to read reviews before I see a movie) and see the criticism of Radcliffe as too sallow for the role. I can see that, but the way I read his portrayal was as a young man who had faced a tragedy beyond his years. So he should look young and kind of lost. So indeed he was having problem connecting as you called it with the tragedy. I go back to the context in the year just after the great war, when a man 5 years older than Radcliffe would have been either crippled, shellshocked, or dead! So it was a bit of a stretch to cast Radcliffe but I think it worked.
February 09, 2012
Good points. I just thought that Radcliffe looked so much his own age, and he struggled with the role. I guess, he did do what he could. I only wanted to see more sadness and frustration in his eyes--and he looked a little too boyish imho. Amazing how I can easily connect with an actor playing a younger character while I cannot make a connection with someone playing a way more mature role.
More The Woman in Black (2012 film) reviews
review by . February 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A Somewhat Enjoyable Homage To Classic Hammer Horror Films...
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 …
review by . February 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
review by . February 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . February 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
What happened to the dog?
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 …
Quick Tip by . February 01, 2012
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!
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this movie


  • Opens tomorrow, February 3, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 35 min.
  • PG-13
    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.
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe
  • Director: James Watkins
  • Genres: Haunted House Film, Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural Thriller
  • Teaser poster art for "The Woman in Black."
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