Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller
Opens locally Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer
Based on the 1983 novel by Susan Hill
Directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake)
The Woman in Black is your run-of-the-mill haunted house story. That’s not to say that it isn’t effective at what it is, but I would be mistaken to suggest that it is anything more.
Based on a novel that was brought to the stage and later remade as a TV film, The Woman in Black finally gets a big-screen treatment. Harry Pott…er…I mean, Daniel Radcliffe stars as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer and widowed father on the brink of bankruptcy. Needing the money, he agrees to travel to a remote village in the UK to review and finalize some paperwork for a recently deceased woman, whose manor has been vacated. We know that things are not quite right from the musical score, but when Kipps arrives and is treated strangely and coldly by the villagers, we know for a fact.
Turns out, there is a mysterious figure, a woman dressed in black, and if you come into contact with her or see her, bad things happen. Specifically, the children of those who have seen her in town inexplicably die, seemingly getting possessed by the witch and forced into committing horrifying acts of suicide. Kipps teams up with Sam (Hinds), a resident who has lost his own son years back.
Kipps is given access to the haunted mansion to look over the papers, and in doing so he learns about the woman in black. To say anything more would be to give away key plot details.
Everything that one would want in a haunted house movie is present here. The house itself is creepy, dark, and old, full of locked rooms and undiscovered treasures. It sits in an area where the tide rises every evening, cutting off any transportation to and fro. Since a child once occupied the manor, there is also a room full of wind-up dolls and figurines, all of which are disturbingly eerie. We get several shots of their blank faces. Director James Watkins shows a knack for knowing what is going to get an audience to squirm, he just doesn't do it quite often enough.
Since the movie is rated PG-13, much of the scares are designed to occur off-screen or just out of frame. There are several moments in the film where audience members jumped, and gasped. Some I saw coming, some I admit made me jump as well. As is required in films such as this, the plot unfolds like a mystery, where our hero Kipps makes discoveries when appropriate to move the story along. He aims to rid the town of the woman in black once and for all.
So it is what it is. Daniel Radcliffe does nothing to prove that he is anybody but Harry Potter, but in his defense, he is not given much to do here other than creep around. The story itself is pretty standard, culminating in a clever ending that connects all of the film’s dots unexpectedly. Let’s just say that Kipps and the woman in black aren’t all that different really, as far as what they need.
This semi-intelligent ending raises The Woman in Black up into the mud of mediocrity. It's an efficiently mild horror tale that seems content to remain stuck in the same old haunts of the genre.
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