Film: The Woman In Black
UK Release date: 18th June 2012
Director: James Watkins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Sophie Stuckey, Harmon Molly, Emma Shorey, Misha Handley
Running time: 95 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Based on the classic ghost story by Susan Hill, The Woman In Black sees Daniel Radcliffe make a clean break from all things Hogwarts and Hermione. It tells the tale of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young solicitor who is forced to leave his young son (Misha Handley) and travel to a remote village to attend to the affairs of Alice Drablow, the recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House. His wife died in childbirth, leaving Arthur alone to raise their child. Though he’s working by himself, Kipps senses that he’s not alone in the mansion, a theory backed up by the sound of footsteps and a mysterious figure big on surprises. The locals clearly don’t want him around – “Don’t go chasing shadows Arthur” – but Kipps is unfazed by the lack of hospitality and starts to uncover the tragic secrets that threaten them all.
Local children have been disappearing under mysterious circumstances and Kipps must find a way to break the woman in black’s cycle of terror, without the aid of magic wands and hocus-pocus. Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Stardust, Kick Ass and wife of Jonathan Ross) was brought on board to write the screenplay, with director James Watkins making his highly anticipated follow up to Eden Lake - a taut, terrifying thriller that deserves a place in everybody’s collection. They are joined on their journey by Jessica Raine, Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer, who do their best to look suspicious and ignore the fact that Radcliffe is way too young for the role of Kipps - the beard he sports is fooling nobody.
It’s rare in this day and age to experience a horror movie that doesn’t revolve around pretty young heroines with low cut tops and massive lungs. There’s nothing wrong with Radcliffe’s performance - he’s asked to carry the film for the most part and he does a good job - but he lacks the vulnerability that a young starlet might bring to the role. Radcliffe has certainly come a long way since his early days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, but he’s still a few facial expressions shy of versatility and range. Having said that, he is pretty good at looking startled, which he’s asked to do on several occasions during his stay at Eel Marsh House. His unhappy demeanour adds to the mood of the piece, but with a storyline so bleak, it’s little wonder he’s a tortured soul. We’re not the only ones to notice. When his son shows him a picture that he drew, Arthur asks him why he looks so sad. “That’s what your face looks like” is the brutally honest response only a child can deliver.
Fans of Eden Lake will already know that James Watkins is a dab hand at delivering atmospheric suspense, and he cranks up the tension here with considerable flair. It’s clear that Watkins has been influenced by the wealth of Asian horror movies swamping our shores, and the decision to follow suit pays dividends. The Woman In Black is blessed with a series of stand out moments that play on the same fears as movies like Ringu and Juon. There’s nothing particularly original about any of it, and Goldman’s script seems determined to cram in every horror cliché known to man, but it’s so well crafted you’ll forgive the filmmakers for the occasional lapse in creativity. Much like Eden Lake before it, you wont find many laughs in James Watkins haunted house of horrors. Which could well be why it didn’t grab me in the way it should. Kipps back-story is certainly bleak - so we’ll forgive him for dying on the inside - but none of the characters raise a smile, making for a very drab experience at times.
If you’re over familiar with the horror genre, or secretly craving a case of the Laurie Strode’s, you might feel the urge to take shelter from the cold. With a serious tone, moody visuals, bleak atmosphere and genuinely creepy big bad, The Woman In Black is an effective frightener that embraces the very best of horror old and new. Radcliffe is on form and Watkins improves with every picture - can’t wait to see where they go from here.