No, this is not ‘Harry Potter Does Horror’. Saying that may be the greatest compliment Daniel Radcliffe could receive. Fresh off of the massive success of the Harry Potter franchise, Radcliffe begins his adult movie career with “The Woman in Black”, and old school horror film based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel. The story has been adapted into a play and a TV movie before finally reaching the big screen. It’s old school in the fact that it doesn’t soak the audience with buckets of blood and guts. Instead it relies on mood and tone and in my opinion that’s much scarier than any amount of gore.
“The Woman in Black” was a good choice for Radcliffe. It’s not a role loaded with heavy dialogue or that requires a wide range. But Radcliffe is more than able to handle what’s asked of him. He plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer and father who is still struggling to cope with the death of wife during the birth of their son. Arthur’s sadness is not only effecting his relationship with his now four-year old son, but also his job performance at the law firm. His boss gives him one more chance to impress the higher-ups by sending him to a remote English village to handle the final affairs of a woman who died there. As you would guess, upon arrival Arthur is greeted with all sorts of odd behavior from villagers that would rather he leave.
One of my favorite actors, Ciaran Hinds plays Sam Daily, one of the few locals that gives Arthur the time of day. Sam warns Arthur of the superstitious nature of the villagers but it’s clear Sam knows more than even he want’s to believe. Arthur arrives at the creepy mansion of the deceased lady to begin his work. He soon finds that the land is haunted by a mysterious woman in black which leads Arthur to discover the gruesome secret the villagers so desperately try to hide.
There are so many vintage horror elements in “The Woman in Black”. We get everything from ghosts to haunted houses but most important is that the majority of it works. “The Woman in Black” really succeeds with the creep factor. With the exception of a few cheap, loud ,volume burst jump scenes, the movie manufactures its terror through slick camera work, dark and dreary locations, and a genuinely spooky ambience. The story turns out to be far more grim than a simple haunted house ghost story which adds to the intensity. Once the mystery begins to unfold, the story comes together nicely and with the exception of Arthur’s rather far-fetched solution, I liked the way things came together.
“The Woman and Black” isn’t a perfect film but it’s head-and-shoulders above many of the horror pictures Hollywood churns out. There are a couple of cheap frights, a few head-scratching moments, and it does revisit the same boo devices more than once. But it also shows a film can be scary without the senseless blood and guts. It’s look and tone perfectly captured the mood for me and I found myself easily wrapped up in the story. This is a good transition for Radcliffe and a nice film in what is usually a poor movie month.