School is over! Harry, (oops! I meant Daniel…sorry) has well and truly graduated from the Hogwarts School of Child Actors and puts his acting chops to the test in the quintessentially spooky The Woman in Black. Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young, widowed lawyer who is told that he must successfully travel to the north east of England and settle the estate of the deceased Alice Drablow, if he wants to keep his job and provide for his young son.
To gain access to the paperwork, local sceptic Sam Daily (CiarÃ¡n Hinds) drives Kipps across the eerily remote moors to possibly the creepiest house anyone has ever set eyes on. Whilst exploring the house, which is isolated for miles around by the waters of the moors at high tide, Kipps sees a woman dressed in a black dress and veil standing outside and despite the out of place appearance of this ghostly apparition, the mysterious deaths of the children in the village and the cryptic warnings of the townspeople, Kipps doesn’t seem to make the connection and decides to spend the night. During his stay, he discovers that Alice Drablow had adopted her sister Jennet’s son Nathaniel, who tragically went on to drown in the marshes, following an accident with a horse and cart. Unable to forgive her sister’s betrayal even in death, Jennet’s vengeful spirit refuses to pass over and instead decides to stay on the mortal coil as The Woman in Black, taking the lives of the townspeople’s children in order to avenge the death of her son.
The Woman in Black is a jump a minute Edwardian horror story, which forgoes the American-teenagers- dropping-like-flies slasher model in favour of ghostly faces looking out of drab windows, creaking floorboards and rocking chairs which rock of their own accord. The audience know these cues so well that you can anticipate the ˜boo’ moments with ease, but that doesn’t mean you still won’t jump. It’s a tried and tested formula which is handled handsomely, but never pushes the boundaries enough to be truly terrifying or even particularly memorable.
Of course, producers were aiming for box office dynamite with family favourite Radcliffe and a conservative 12a certificate but films such as 2001’s The Others (who Radcliffe himself cites as an inspiration for this adaptation) is proof that horror films with lower ratings can still be arresting. Despite Kipps’ job and his son’s life being on the line, The Woman in Black fails to convince us that everything is at stake. Kipps is never torn between the duty to do his job and going back to a house which may mean his death. The casual way he faces the eponymous Woman in Black never allows us to feel worried for his safety, despite Daniel Radcliffe’s best spooked-out face.
But the question on everybody’s lips is how Mr. Radcliffe himself handles the action Hans Solo- that is, without Ron and Hermoine and the rest of the gang. Competent, I think is the word most would agree on, but then again shouldn’t we expect more from someone who has had an induction into the world of acting that few can only dream of?
That Film Guy says:
Horror films, notably ghost stories, live or die by the jumps, thrills, threat and atmosphere. The Woman in Black, therefore is a solid entry in the genre without ever having the knockout punch of an instant classic. The Victorian era costumes and relentless shots of children in windows and bizarre and macabre toys, are as synonymous with ghost stories as the apparitions themselves, but The Woman in Black does a good job of keeping them feel fresh. It is aware that you’ve seen most of the scenes before, even the plot is dangerously similar to The Ring, but it also knows that these scenes work and so recreates them in a terrifying setting.