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THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a mildly entertaining horror film that rides heavily on the popularity of Daniel Radcliff. It’s going to make a lot of money at the box office, not because it’s attended by genuine horror fans but because it’s attended by Harry Potter fans. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing. Some aspects about THE WOMAN IN BLACK does work, it has enough fright to keep you alert. But the concept is nothing new and the ending is too convenient…
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a widowed lawyer whose grief has put his career in jeopardy, is sent to a remote village to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased eccentric. But upon his arrival, it soon becomes clear that everyone in the town is keeping a deadly secret. Although the townspeople try to keep Kipps from learning their tragic history, he soon discovers that the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost… and no one, not even the children, are safe from her vengeance.
Based on an ’80s book, by Susan Hill, that was previously turned into a TV movie but this is the first time that it hit the big screen. And with the help from revamped Hammer Productions, which gave birth to a lot of classic Brit horror films, and screenwriter Jane Goldman whose contributions to X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass I admired, THE WOMAN IN BLACK becomes a feature length horror film that lurks in the dark and frequently jolts you to your core.
The film unfortunately suffers from unintentional humorous situations. Scenes that are supposed to be scary becomes slightly comical and scenes that are supposed to be dramatic becomes tacky for lack of a better word.
I enjoy the environment in which the story is set. It’s gloomy, often foggy as well, and it features a massive landscape that could drown whenever the tide rises. The film has all the elements needed to tell an effective horror story, a creepy empty mansion, a vengeful, murderous spirit, a protagonist conflicted, and I think director James Watkins did a splendid job of maintaining the unpleasant, uncomfortable tone. The only problem is there are too many mcguffins that come into play. The film is obsessed with certain things way too often. I’m ok with horror films that give ghosts personalities and agendas but the lead ghost in this story is too erratic for my taste.
I know what you’re wondering. So how did Radcliffe do in this film? I’ve gotta be honest with you, Radcliffe playing a father to a son is as unconvincing as Anton Yelchin with facial hair acting like an seasoned man in Like Crazy. It’s as hilarious as watching Radcliffe played an older Potter at the end of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I just don’t buy it.
I understand that Radcliffe wants to move on and show the world that he can do more than just casting spells and waving wands, but I don’t think he gives the audience enough time to be ready to see him in an adult role.
Performance-wise, I think he plays Arthur Kipps with a certain composure, he knows his character is conflicted, part of him just wants to get the job done and return to his son, but part of him wants to believe in the supernatural because he misses his dead wife, which probably lead Goldman to writing an ending that gives you a reunion as the ghost’s way of saying thanks.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK is in a sense a very traditional ghost story because there’s an unfinished business involved and the longing for reunion with restful peace.
It doesn’t leave much for further interpretation but if you love a good scare, THE WOMAN IN BLACK does the trick.
GRADE: 3 out of 5
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