The Woman in Black (2012)
Director: James Watkins
Writers: Susan Hill (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is a young widowed lawyer from London who is sent to settle the affairs of a recently deceased client in a remote seaside village. He is cooly received by the townspeople who are keeping a frightening secret. He soon learns that there is a dangerous ghost haunting his deceased client’s house, a ghost who is bent on vengeance against those who took what belonged to her.
The Woman in Black is an exceptional film. At a mere 95 minutes, the movie wastes no time with unnecessary drama or exaggerated tension that has become commonplace within the recent slew of ghost story/horror films. Instead The Woman in Black takes advantage of the story’s natural rhythms, alternating between action and reflection that subtly build the tension throughout the film until at just the right moment (even when you are expecting “something” to happen) the trap is sprung and you jump…and this happens over and over again.
The director, James Watson, does a fabulous job of weaving traditional ghost story horror elements together with the tale of the young widowed lawyer (Radcliffe) who is struggling to keep his life together after his wife’s death. The use of imagery, lighting, and sound create a darkly real Victorian period piece that easily transitions between the supernatural and the ordinary. In addition, there are moments that seem truly inspired by Hitchcock himself, making them all the more frightening for giving us exactly what was expected–but not necessarily in the way we expected it. The Woman in Black is an excellent example of how a nimble horror story can twist and turn, surprising you in spite of yourself.
For many people Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter. After all, an entire generation grew up with Radcliffe playing the part of the young wizard. Like the character he played in Rowling’s books, Radcliffe grew up–and into a fine young actor whose talent breaks him out of the stereotypical roles that trap many child stars. Viewer be warned, Harry Potter does not make an appearance in The Woman in Black. However, Radcliffe gives an excellent performance as a lawyer and single father who is at home in the 19th Century–with no resemblance to the Hogwartz wizard that made him famous. If you have young children who want to see Harry Potter in a new scary movie, don’t bring them to The Woman In Black. This isn’t the movie for them.
The Woman In Black easily joins the top ranks of the ghostly horror genre, including The Others, The Shining, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Stir of Echoes, Two Sisters, The Haunting, The Orphanage, The Sixth Sense, and more. The Woman in Black is a disquieting film that feels hauntingly real
Image of Arthur Kipps exploring odd noises in the mansion. Image from The Woman in Black Website.