THE WOMAN IN BLACK
By Gary Murray
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer
Written by Jane Goldman
Based on the book by Susan Hill
Directed by James Watkins
Running time 95 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Daniel Radcliffe is one of the world’s most successful actors. His Harry Potter films have generated more money than just about any other movie franchise. With the eight films now a part of cinematic history, the young actor is taking on different roles to expand his base. He has appeared on Broadway in a couple of revivals. His latest film is a ‘spooky old house’ flick called The Woman in Black.
Daniel plays Arthur Kipps, a lawyer who lost his wife during childbirth. A shell of a man, his son always draws his father with a frown on his face. Even the child knows that something is very wrong with his father.
Arthur is sent by his firm to take care of the estate of the Drablows. The family is gone and there is a mysterious history about the house and the inhabitants. Arthur must go to a very rural part of the countryside to take care of all the papers. Once there, he finds that all the locals hide their children and expect Arthur to leave their village immediately. They are all terrified that The Woman in Black will take their children. It is rumored in the village that the dead woman pushes the children to kill themselves.
The local rich guy and cynic is Daily (Ciaran Hinds). He believes that the people in the town are just a bunch of backwards rubes and that there are no such things as ghosts. He befriends Arthur on the train and invites the young man to his house. Daily’s wife (Janet McTeer) is another who has lost a child and believes that a spirit takes over her. She draws visions of the future on tables and tombstones.
Arthur decides to stay at the house to finish his work before his son and the nanny arrive on the train. Soon, the house becomes alive with a something that frightens. Our sad hero must figure out a way to appease The Woman in Black and let her spirit rest in peace. It is that push to resolution that drives the movie to the dark ending.
The film is full of shadows in windows and creatures that disappear into the darkness. It is more mood than straight out horror. Director James Watkins does a great job of establishing creepiness to the piece. This is not one of those creature features with a super villain Freddy Kruger style but a film of atmosphere and slight creeps. Watkins does the ‘stuff jumping from the far frame’ to get a majority of the frights, but he also gets the mood right.
The film looks stunning, with both a creepy old house and sweeping vistas of the English countryside. The second unit has found a perfect place to set a horror film and uses every natural element as a solid base to set their movie play. This is just one of the best looking films of the year, a classic feel of motion picture making.
The Woman in Black is a showcase for Daniel Radcliffe but it doesn’t do much to further his career. With his Victorian sideburns, he looks more like a kid playing an adult role on a junior high school stage. His basic job is to look perplexed. This is not an action role and those expecting a Hogwarts spectacle will be disappointed.
People are going to say that they don’t make movies like this anymore and that is true. In the torture porn splatter fest that is today’s modern film, it is refreshing to see something so retro. The movie is made by Hammer, one of the greatest horror film companies of all time. This is another step toward establishing the brand again and I hope that it will be yet another step in their ascension.