The Woman In Black – Review

The Woman In Black – Review

Review by FilmfellaHenry – 6/10

Eager to prove he’s more than just ‘that Potter bastard’, Daniel Radcliffe adopts a brooding Edwardian lead in director James Watkin’s new horror The Woman In Black. Recently widowed solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is tasked with handling the estate of the late Alice Drablow in Northern England. Leaving behind his four year old son Joseph (Misha Handley), Kipps travels to the creepy deserted Eel Marsh House, where the local townsfolk give him a chilly reception. Endeavouring to complete his assignment, Kipps begins to suspect the old manse is not quite as uninhabited as he previously thought…

Adapted from the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman In Black is possibly most famous as its stage play incarnation, being the second longest running play in the history of the West End (beaten by The Mousetrap). Basically, a good, safe choice for James Watkins to follow up his under-rated directorial debut Eden Lake. Or so you would think.

Initially, The Woman In Black seems to tick the right boxes for an atmospheric haunted house movie: fantastic location, brooding protagonist and gloriously gothic art direction. Even Radcliffe, despite playing a fairly limited character, manages to pull off a competent performance. I sat eagerly waiting for a chilling, tense ride, holding images of The Shining, The Haunting (1963) and The Others in my mind.

Then it all started to go wrong. The supernatural element was introduced far too early, revealing the antagonist and subsequently destroying any doubt of an actual haunting. While relatively bloodless, the film continues down an unsubtle CGI led path, content with throwing jump scenes at the audience like sweets at Halloween. The thin narrative explaining Eel Marsh House’s sinister history is largely overlooked, with the odd scribbled letter and diary note to provide the most basic of narrative cohesion. Ending with a predictable Ringu-esque finale, it became clear that The Woman In Black had only one objective: making young teenagers and inexperienced cinema goers jump about like epileptics while the rest of us watch on with bored dismay.

The film had obvious potential; it just needed to be more damned subtle and open to interpretation. Revealing the antagonist so early was a major error, but forsaking mystery for such an obvious, predictable plot line is unforgivable. Had the film posed the question of whether the supernatural events were actually down to Kipp’s fragile mental state (as The Shining did so well) I would have been interested; in its current form however, the film is sadly unimpressive.

Some may find it scary, but for those accustomed to horror and other haunting movies, you can do much better. One to miss.

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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

4 Responses to The Woman In Black – Review

  1. Exellent for a novice

  2. filmfellaDarren says:

    I haven’t seen this yet, but i have just heard an interview with the BBFC rep attempting to justify how the BBFC decided to cut scenes in the film to reduce a potential 15 certificate to a 12a. This to me is an outrageous decision that sums up everything that is wrong with the cinema industry. The director’s vision was presumably compromised by a decision purely about maximizing the commercial value of the film. It’s a horror movie – it is supposed to be scary. So, now the industry is diluting the threat of horror movies to guarantee under twelve’s can see the horror films – that is the scariest thing about the film in my opinion. It probably wouldn’t have been that scary if it was a 15, but what chance does it have as a 12a? First, the industry killed the once lucrative 18, and now it seems they want to kill the 15 – it’s preposterous. I’ve seen Eden lake – it is a very uncomfortable film to watch as it has a real sense of raw peril about it, I can’t imagine the director of that would want his new film to have a reduced threat. I bet he is livid; yet he can’t speak out, as that might deter older audiences from seeing the film. As for Radcliffe, he has grown up looking vulnerable and scared on screen and i’m sure he does that well in this film, but there is no way he is old enough to be convincing in a role that requires him to be a widower with a son, that isn’t his fault, he is obviously miscast. So now the industry is miscasting people to assure a young audience. As long as the youngsters have a high disposable income, the accountants that run the industry will continue to reduce standards to appeal to them and cinema standards will continue to decline, and it seems the horror film will be the first casualty.

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