The Woman in Black came out this past weekend and with it gave us a chance to see Daniel Radcliff in something that wasn’t related to the world of Harry Potter. Instead of playing the Boy Who Lived, Radcliff plays a young widower who’s tasked with sorting through the paperwork of a deceased woman whose mansion holds more than just an obscene amount of paperwork. The question, going into this film, was if Radcliff could break out of his invisibility cloak.
Arthur Kipps is a young father who lost his wife in childbirth. Since then, his grief has taken hold of his daily life and his job as a lawyer has suffered. His boss sends him to the small English coastal town of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. Mrs. Drablow’s estate is across the foggy marshlands at Eel Marsh House.
What Arthur finds in Crythin Gifford is anything but friendly. The locals want him to leave and they aren’t shy about telling him. He finds that the children of the town are more or less prisoners in their own homes and the only person who shows him any consideration is the wealthiest of the townsfolk, Mr. Daily (Ciarán Hinds).
Once Arthur arrives at Eel Marsh House, he sets to work on his task and he finds that there is more to the house than what he originally thought and begins to experience for himself, just what makes the locals so uncomfortable. He experiences things that shouldn’t happen in an empty house. Noises, furniture moving on its own, and he sees a woman dressed in black roaming the grounds. As he digs deeper into Mrs. Drablow’s paperwork, what he finds is just as disturbing as the events unfolding around him.
I’m always on the hunt for a good old-fashioned scary movie. I’ve yet to find one that scares that ever-living crap out of me and I was really hoping, after seeing the first full length trailer for this, that The Woman in Black would answer my call. While it didn’t quite reach that level of scary, it did manage to bring the creepy rather well. The first question people will have is whether or not Daniel Radcliff can shake off Harry Potter. In my humble opinion, I think he did a great job here. As if taking that role in Equus wasn’t brave enough, he showed some courage taking a role that the majority of his younger Harry Potter fans won’t see right out the gate. While Arthur does share some of the same personality traits (i.e. angst) that Harry has, it’s a different feel altogether and he’s able to pull it off. The person I went with said that she didn’t think of Harry Potter at all during the movie, so that right there says something.
Unfortunately the supporting cast suffers a little bit in that they’re used mainly as background noise. The biggest supporting role is that of Ciarán Hinds character Mr. Daily. Daily helps ARthur while also revealing a little bit of a backstory that ties in with what unfolds during the course of the movie. However, Daily doesn’t get a chance to become a fully realized character which is a shame because Hinds is a great actor.
The biggest star of the film is by far, the house. Eel Marsh House is as creepy as they come and the set designers really earned their dough. The simplest items can be used to give an ominous feel and the child’s room in the movie is the perfect example of this. There are many people who find porcelain dolls scary (I’m one of them), but what they used here goes beyond that. There were several horror film devices used that have been used time and time again, such as the rocking chair moving on its own, but the manner in which it was used here made me forget just how trite that device is. The long corridors and over-grown landscaping coupled with ground fog all lend itself to the overall atmosphere of the film and in that regard it didn’t disappoint. When I look at a haunted house movie, I always ask myself if it’s a house I would approach. The answer here is a very decisive NO.
The Woman in Black was first a novel written by Susan Hill and released in 1983. In 1987, Stephen Mallatrat adapted the book into a play that is still in production in London. Having not read the book, nor seen the play, I can’t say how the film holds up to the source material. What I can say is director James Watkins (Eden Lake) and screenwriter Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick Ass) delivered a film that relied more on suspense than gore, which is actually a breath of fresh air. While the film does follow your basic ghost story rules, I still found it to be enjoyable and scary while I was in the theater. This isn’t a film that the scares will stick with you after, but it’s good while it lasts. The horrific-ness of the Woman in Black actually stems from how she preys on children. This gives the story the opportunity to play with some very disturbing imagery without having to show much of anything which is all a bit clever. Goldman’s screenplay allows the viewer to know what happened without actually seeing the aftermath. This allows the viewer’s imagination to take over, and imagination is always more vivid that what is actually viewed on-screen.
The Woman in Black is a great film to go see with a group of friends, or see in a packed theater as audience reaction can influence how you react. If the person next to you jumps, chances are you will too. The suspense is present for the 95 minutes this film runs, but once it ends it’s not hard to move on to other things. That being said, I actually really liked this film and thought, for what it was, it was rather well done. Chances are I’m not going to find that one scary movie that will keep me awake at night, but this one managed to give it a go. In an age where gore rules, it was a nice change of pace to not see buckets upon buckets of blood. It may not be the scariest or best ghost story around, but it is one I would watch again. And that’s saying a lot.
Check out the trailer below if you’re still on the fence.Tags: Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Radcliff, James Watkins, Jane Goldman, The Woman in Black, The Woman in Black review