Director: James Watkins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds
Studio: Hammer Films
Woman in Black, The (2012)
A preposterously youthful lawyer, or cleverly designed android, seemingly incapable of facial expressions or human emotions (Daniel Radcliffe), gets posted to downtown Mordor, I mean a remote corner of pastural England, to take care of a deceased woman’s mansion called Eel Marsh. We get the impression that he must have been goofing around a lot at work lately, because his unsympathetic Ebenezer Scrooge of a boss tells him not to screw this one up or his paycheck will soon be as blank as his face.
The lawyer, Arthur Kipps, has a 4 year old son and had lost his wife during childbirth, possibly as a result of the dangers of childhood pregnancy. Apparently the appropriate timeframe in which to get over this and get on with your life without depending on the sympathy of others for survival is: never. Arthur has to leave his son behind and find out why the unfriendly locals are all terrified of Eel Marsh and in the process re-evaluates his own wavering skepticism about things that go bump in the night.
The Woman in Black is directed by James Watkins, who also brought us Eden Lake, and was a writer on the abortion that is The Descent 2. Watkins does a lot right in this movie, and gets very few things wrong in my opinion. Few people seem to know this but The Woman in Black is based on a 1983 book by the same name, and was made into a television film back in 1989 already. The 1989 version has a cultish following and is considered by many to be scary in its own right. As such, this movie could be considered a remake.
For his version of The Woman in Black, Watkins went back to the old school of horror: slow burning psychological and atmospheric terror rather than the balls-deep-in-your-eyesockets style that has become so prevalent of late. Light, shadows, reflections, silence and loud noises are all used to great effect to enhance the creep factor. Not everybody enjoys this kind of horror, or finds it scary, but it’s my favorite kind. It brings to mind entries like The Innkeepers and Session 9. To me, what you can’t see is scarier than what you can.
If there’s anything I can complain about in this movie, it’s Daniel “No Expressions” Radcliffe’s acting. At moments where normal human beings would be pissing all over themselves in terror, he seems almost casually bored, as impartial an observer as anybody in the audience. He also isn’t particularly convincing as a youthful father-slash-lawyer, and handles the child like one would somebody else’s puppy. The film also suffers from a few predictable scares that could have been better executed. Overall, though, The Woman in Black is a solid entry into the annals of haunted house movies. It is well executed and offers some genuinely creepy moments.
The Woman in Black earns 7 out of 10… and a rocking chair in this review.