The Woman in Black Review
Max's Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.5/10
(2 reviews total)
In this day and age, horror films rarely supply us with anything new or innovative. Yet we keep putting ourselves in darkened theaters with amplified speakers. Some go for the atmosphere. Some go seeking a good chill. Others might just be on a date and want a reasonable excuse for a grotesque amount of PDA. With The Woman in Black
, there is an opportunity to obtain one or any of these things.
Based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill, Daniel Radcliffe stars as young lawyer Arthur Kipps, who is haunted by the death of his wife (in childbirth) and losing ground at his firm. In an effort to save his job while supporting his young son, Arthur is sent to the countryside to settle the last will of recently deceased Alice Drablow. Upon arriving, Arthur discovers he is not welcome in the small town; people fear his business with the Drablow estate but naturally don't offer any details as to why.
Arthur persists and sets up shop at the late Mrs. Drablow's Eel Marsh House, which is surrounded by marshlands and a shifting tide that cuts it off from the mainland at various points in the day. As Arthur bores through Mrs. Drablow's effects, he encounters unexplained noises and events throughout the estate culminating in his encountering the "Woman in Black," a malevolent spectre whose presence is linked to the deaths of children within the village. As Arthur digs deeper into the woman's identity and motivations, supernatural occurances (and deaths) begin to rise, leaving Arthur scrambling to bring peace to the woman before she kills again.
It would be easy to watch the film and chastise it for lack of originality or being a slave to the cliches of ghost stories. For the less jaded, "Woman" is an entertaining, often atmospheric love letter to horror films like The Haunting or The Others. Like all those that came before it, "Woman" relies heavily on manipulating sight and sound, oftentimes using classic fake-outs and scare tactics that can be seen coming a mile away. What helps keep the film engaging is the stylized atmosphere of the house. If your setting is going to be a haunted house, it had better be done well and the design/presentation of Eel Marsh House, while nothing we haven't seen before, is still creepy to wander through. Plenty of conveniently placed reflective surfaces give the sense that there's always something watching you from behind. Again, cliche, but we'll take it.
One thing many may ask is how Radcliffe fares on his first film outing after the "Harry Potter" series concluded last year. Although Arthur Kipps is not a complicated character to immerse oneself in, Radcliffe ultimately suceeds in taking his next steps toward breaking away from the franchise that made him. In the beginning, it's admittedly difficult to buy him as a father and lawyer, but remarkabley (and thankfully) by the film's end, the stigma of playing Harry Potter for over a decade has melted away. Although we see Radcliffe and his potential rather than Arthur, his choice to do horror after concluding the biggest role of his career was a safe move but ultimately a smart one.
It helps that Radcliffe is surrounded by a cast that doesn't overshadow him—save for the Woman in Black, but that's the point of the film. The always great Ciarán Hinds gets a reasonable amount of attention as Arthur's lone friend in town, a man whose own son was a victim of the woman's influence. Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) has a brief but important apperance as Hinds' volatile wife who believes she can communicate with their dead son. Everyone else in the film serves little purpose other than to act as padding and victims for the woman to pick off.
The ending won't shock you, but it won't leave you with a sense of emptiness like so many recent horror flicks. It's shot well, wastes no time, is consistent in tone and provides the creepy atmosphere you'd want from a ghost story. The setting is favorable while the lead is likeable and the woman herself is just enough menace without being a ridiculous caricature/stereotype of old, whithered ghosts (though that's what she is). It's enjoyable enough to warrant a go and a hopeful sign of things to come for Daniel Radcliffe's future in film—if you care. Rating: 7/10
"Truly traditional ghost stories are a dime a dozen these days, having been replaced by "boo scare"-laden retreads, torture porn and most recently, found-footage fare. The Woman in Black
is one of the best straight horror entries of the decade and succeeds on all fronts. It offers strong performances from its lead and supporting cast, a fantastic sense of space and atmosphere and ample frights to keep the viewer riveted. Better yet, it manages to avoid the last-act implosion that plagues so many entries from this genre and instead ramps up before its fittingly melancholy conclusion. While there are jump scares to be found, most of the frights announce themselves before the payoff, relying instead on the mood of the scene and creepiness of the antagonistic spirit to bring the terror. The disturbing scenes containing rather gruesome child death only serve to make this a bleaker and more potent old-school horror fable." Rating: 8/10