One of the most anticipated films of 2012 so far, The Woman in Black is chilling and atmospheric, but does not bring anything new to the genre and features a surprisingly dull performance from Daniel Radcliffe. But casual moviegoers flocking to the theater solely to see Radcliffe get chased by ghosts will not be disappointed.
Arthur Kipps struggles both as a lawyer and as a father. His wife died in childbirth, leaving him to care for their little boy. Things look up when Kipps is asked to manage the estate of Alice Drablow, whose son, Nathaniel, drowned in the marshlands surrounding her house. Kipps soon discovers that the estate, known as Eel Marsh House, is haunted by a ghostly woman garbed in black. At the same time, children in the nearby village are dying under mysterious circumstances. Kipps must find the connection between the dying children and the mysterious ghost and find a way to stop her.
Given the talent involved with this film, it is surprising that not much is done with that talent. Daniel Radcliffe gives a stiff performance, which is shocking given the fact that he is a phenomenal actor. But here he reacts to the horrifying events around him with a blank expression and not much else. People expecting an impressive performance from the Harry Potter actor will be sorely disappointed. Ciaran Hinds, who also worked alongside Radcliffe on the final Potter film, is much more convincing in his role as Sam Daily, a landowner who proves to be instrumental in helping uncover the mystery of the “Woman in Black.” Hinds slips into the role comfortably and effortlessly, and his performance is the most satisfying. On top of that, his facial expression changes and he reacts appropriately to the horrors around him(take notes, Mr. Radcliffe).
The film turns out to be be mildly frightening at some points, but as a whole it isn’t particularly terrifying. A few scenes may make viewers jump in their seats, but that’s about all that will make audiences uncomfortable. The film relies heavily on these scenes, and after a while the shock value fades.
The Woman in Black is highly derivative, and the execution leaves a lot to be desired. It is almost as if the director aims to be predictable, because halfway through the film viewers should have a rough idea of what is going to happen and what the ghost’s motives are.
Those flaws aside, the film does a great job setting up the atmosphere. Right from the get-go, we get a sense of how creepy and sinister this movie will be. Dark set pieces do a great job setting the mood, and most of the scenes taking place outside show overcast skies or ominous weather. This goes a long way in creating an appropriate atmosphere.
Creating suspense is also something the film excels at. Some scenes will have viewers gnawing on their nails or firmly gripping their armrests as they expect something to jump out of a dark corner at any moment. In this respect, the movie lives up to its classification as a horror film.
While far from perfect, The Woman in Black is entertaining enough, but don’t expect more than a scare or two.
2.5 out of 5 stars
For the opening night of The Woman in Black, I brought my 14 year old stepdaughter with me to get a teen horror fan’s perspective on this film as well as my, well, more seasoned view. We agree. This movie was a huge disappointment. If you are dying to see it, wait for it to come out for rent or Netflix.
The film never developed a suspenseful atmosphere throughout the first half of the film. When the jump scares were introduced, they didn’t make the film, as a whole, scary or tense. Most of the scares were accomplished by introducing incredicably loud music at the “jump” point, inlcuding one scene where we were supposed to be jump when a faucet turned on. The first half of the movie was paced too slow and did nothing to pull the viewer into the film or feel anything for the protagonist.
Our protagonist. Mr. Daniel Radcliff’s performance was flat. He had the same expression and same response to every situation. He also suffered from what I refer to as the “Elijah Wood” syndrome, where it appears that someone is cutting onions around him constantly. His eyes were full of tears from moment one up to the very end. I understand that he was suffering from a loss and his confusion, but seriously, it was overdone. My stepdaughter, who loves the Harry Potter movies, was disappointed in his performance.
There was some amazing cinematography. In one scene, the point of view flies high over the road to the manor house, giving us a birds eye view of the manor, the swamps, and the tidal area.
Warning! There will be some spoilers from this point on! If you want to see this movie, stop reading here!
There is a huge logic gap when our lead and a friend go to retrieve a carriage from the swamp. Our lead decides to wade out into the murky depths to find the carriage and its cargo. According to the townspeoplel, the cargo was lost in the swamp. Here’s the issue. Radcliff goes directly to the base of the big cross set in the swamp and finds the carriage and the cargo. No problem. How was the carriage and cargo lost if they knew where it was to place a cross over it? Who put the cross there? With all the labor it would have taken to get the cross over the mud, erect it, and then support it, you’d think they would have been able to get to the carriage.
At the end of the movie, Radcliff is holding his son’s hand while talking to another gentleman. His son pulls away and starts to wander in a train station. I’m sorry. I’m a father of a 3 year old. No parent is going to be completely oblivious of their child’s location. The very end of the film concludes with a ghostly messsage of hope and love. With this movie being adverstised as the scariest movie ever, this type of ending is another disappointment.
My stepdaughter had an issue with one scene were a mud ghost starts to rise up from a mud pit in a clean bed. The scene just didn’t fit in with what all else was happening and actually detracted from that part of the film.
My stepdaughter and I gave this film a 5 out of 10 rating. Will we ever want to see this again? No. What was the best part of the film? Seeing the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman.