The Woman in Black
Drama (Thriller, Horror)
Running Time: 95 minutes
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds
Directed By: James Watkins
Rating: 5 out 0f 10
A young lawyer travels to a remote village only to be tormented by a local superstition about a woman in black.
Sometimes horror movies forget that they need good stories to truly capture the viewer. They seem obsessed with scaring people by any means necessary instead of providing a good fundamental background story. Unfortunately for us while this film does do a good job of keeping you frightened, it also will confound you with its bizarre story and characters. The Woman in Black is the story of a young lawyer by the name of Arthur Kipps. He travels to a faraway village to deal with the closing of a local estate, only to realize the townspeople seem to be terrorized by a local legend come to life.
Seeing Radcliffe in anything other than Harry Potter films will take some getting used to, although this film is very Potteresque if you really get down to it. It has the old English town slightly reminiscent of Diagon Alley, he has to take a train to get there, and the woman in black could be Severus Snape in weekend party mode. I was expecting Hagrid to show up to save the day at some point. Anyways, the film has that slow purposeful start where we are introduced to Arthur Kipps as he travels to the remote village for his job. As he arrives he notices that all the townsfolk act suspiciously and want him to go on his merry way back to London. Unfortunately for them, Kipps has a job to do in the scariest place on earth, and he intends to finish it no matter what. From there the film really degenerates into Kipps working at the dark and lonely estate house and seeing things that would freeze even the bravest man’s blood. The remote house is a nice setting for the paranormal as its graveyard surroundings and poor weather sets the stage well for frights. This is what I didn’t understand about the film though, Kipps is presented with abnormal experience after abnormal experience and it barely registers with him. He sees people in graveyards, in windows, shadows that walk by, and odd sounds all over the house and he seems fine with it. An extended scene where he just walks from room to room seeing bizarre things reminds the viewer of just how bad this story truly is. Yes it will make you jump but it is very hard to buy into as a premise. I am sorry if this makes me sound weak, but if I were to see someone looking at me from a window in an abandoned haunted house I would just bounce. No I wouldn’t ask questions, no I wouldn’t investigate, I would just leave.
This film was a safe choice for Daniel Radcliffe and I can’t fault him for his decision. He plays the lawyer Arthur Kipps, and playing in an English styled horror as an English character was not a stretch for him by any means. He also has very little dialogue so that helped out as well for his overall believability. He does an okay job with the role and if his character was better than maybe he would have been better. The most important thing is I can see him outside of the Potter series and he should be proud of that fact. The rest of the unknown cast do good jobs as being weird if not entirely believable characters.
As the film goes on we learn more about the woman in black and her unhealthy obsession with the children of the town. We learn the story of her life and we also learn the townsfolk are a superstitious mob. The film does a surprisingly good job of keeping the viewer scared for a PG-13 film. While a lot of the film is what I call cheap scares (loud and improbable noises) it will still set most viewers on edge. The movie just never could break itself away from its awful drawn out story. Kipps wants to solve the mystery surrounding this house and the woman in black at all costs. He forgoes personal safety and even normal thinking to accomplish this. He walks around the house and its surrounding area like a man possessed and it really is quite silly. The ending suited this movie fine and brings closure to a film with many scares but a weak story. Overall I was entertained by this film just not impressed with it.
Director James Watkins takes on his second feature film and does an okay job with it. The turn of the 20th century timeline coupled with the darker cinematography set the tone for a film with a decent amount of frights. The strange townspeople and overly simplistic back story of the woman in black really sucked the life out of the film though. The camera work is solid if not remarkable and the casting was sound. A better script (Jane Goldman) would have made this movie a more viable watch.
I cannot recommend this film as the Woman in Black while frightening is not that interesting.
T Factor + If you do not need a solid story for your horror then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like blood and gore in your horror then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Sinister, Insidious.