Cert: 12A Runtime: 95 mins Director: James Watkins Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Sophie Stucky, Liz White and Ciarán Hinds
Do you believe in ghosts?
So this is the post-potter era for young Mr.Radcliffe, this is his first full length feature since last summer and believe me people there be no magic here only spooky goodness. The Woman in Black is part of Hammer Productions recent revival to the big screen, if you don’t know anything about Hammer I will be disappointed and sad. Any way The Woman in Black was originally a book released in 1983 by Susan Hill, which then was converted to a west end play and now a film. It has had very big success on paper and stage now it’s time to see how it bods in the cinema. A widowed lawyer travels to a secluded village on an important assignment, and encounters a vengeful ghost with mysterious motives. After losing his beloved wife in childbirth, young barrister Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) was nearly consumed by grief. A haunted widower father, he raises his young son with the help of his devoted nanny. Arthur is on the verge of losing his job when an important client of the firm dies, and his boss offers him one last opportunity to prove his worth by settling the woman’s affairs. Determined to succeed, Arthur travels to the remote village and receives a chilly welcome. Something horrible once happened here, and it seems that the locals are determined to ensure Arthur never finds out what it was. Now, the more time Arthur spends in his client’s crumbling estate, the more aware he becomes of a presence that isn’t quite human. In this house dwells a woman’s ghost. In life she lost something precious, and now in death she’ll do whatever it takes to get it back. Until she does, her spectral presence will serve as a harbinger of doom, always to be followed by the death of an innocent.
First of all, if you have a child under the age of 12 I would highly recommend you not to take them with you. This is a old fashioned type horror, quite often the better ghost story films are better because they operate on a what you don’t see is what scares you more level, Watkins has managed to keep that aspect of his film whilst also giving us enough of the truly terrifying spirit to jolt us in our seats; often showing her to us and not to Kipps! When the shocks come, and there are many and they are bona fide underwear soiling, they act as merciful releases from the built up dread, but then when Watkins doesn’t deliver a shock, we are left waiting uneasily, darting our eyes all over the expansive frame, searching fruitlessly for a glimpse of something troubling. Did that wind up toy move? Is that a pallid face we just glimpsed in the shadows? That damn rocking chair is the scariest there has ever been!A film such as this is only as good as the production design and setting for the story. Thankfully Watkins and his team have nailed it there as well. Eel Marsh House exteriors are Cotterstock Hall in Northamptionshire, perfectly foreboding, while the village of Halton Gill in the Yorkshire Dales gets a Hammer Horror make over to become Crythin Gifford. But it’s with the interior of the house where the makers excel, an utterly unforgiving and upsetting place, brilliantly under lit by Tim Maurice-Jones for maximum scary effect. Also those toys were freaky as hell!
On the acting front the film rests solely on the shoulders of Radcliffe, and he comes up trumps. Initially its awkward accepting him as the father of a young boy, and once he gets to Crythin Gifford he is dwarfed by all the other adults who live there, but once the Victorian setting envelopes him the awkwardness evaporates and the characterisation becomes more realistic and easy to sympathise with. The character is changed from the book, meaning Radcliffe has to carry inner torment as well as exuding an outer coat of trepidation blended with stoic fear. It should be noted that for much of the picture he is acting on his own, reacting to the house and the overgrown gardens and marshes, in short he is terrific and it augers well for his adult acting career. In support Hinds and McTeer are pillars of professionalism, with McTeer’s Mrs. Daily a creepy character in her own right, but it’s also another neat meditation on grief that sits alongside Arthur Kipps’.The ending is also changed from that in the novel, and it’s already proving to be divisive. How you react to it, and it is up for a two-fold interpretation, may dampen your overall enjoyment of the picture? Personally I have no issue with it, I was still sunk in the cinema chair breathing heavily at that point! The certification and the presence of Radcliffe ensures that a teenage audience will flock to see it, many of whom will not get the “horror” film that are after. Hopefully the word will get out that this really is only a film for those who love a good boo jump ghost story of old, that’s its target audience. 8.3/10