The Woman In Black (reviewed by Lisa Marie Bowman)

I was recently watching some recent film trailer and I came across one for the sequel to the 2012 ghost story, The Woman In Black.  Since I will undoubtedly be reviewing that sequel when it comes out in 2015, why not take this moment now to take a look back at the first Woman In Black?  After all, it is October!

Taking place in turn-of-the-century England, The Woman In Black tells the story of Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), a young lawyer who is still struggling to recover from the death of his wife four years previously.  Arthur is sent to an isolated village to settle the estate of a woman named Alice Drablow.  Despite several warnings from the superstitious townspeople, Arthur goes to Alice’s decrepit old mansion and he soon finds himself haunted by fleeting glimpses of a woman in black who seems to be in the house with him.  With each sighting of the woman in black, another child in the village commits suicide.

Despite a few genuinely disturbing scenes (mostly involving children committing suicide), The Woman In Black is, ultimately, a pretty typical PG-13 horror film.  There’s a few good, if predictable, jump scenes (most of which involve the title character popping up in the background) and there’s all the usual Insidious-style tracking shots through the creepy old house.  However, any time that it seems like the film is about to become truly disturbing or scary, it runs smack into that PG-13 rating and it has to pull back.  The end result is that the film is creepy yet oddly bland, like something you might find playing on Chiller around one in the morning.

Of course, The Woman in Black got a lot of attention because it was Daniel Radcliffe’s first film since the end of the Harry Potter franchise.  How does Radcliffe do in his first adult role?  Well, he’s okay.  In fact, I would say that he’s better than okay.  He’s perfectly adequate.  I think the main issue I had with Radcliffe’s performance is that he sometimes seems to be trying too hard to make sure that we understand that he’s not playing Harry Potter.  For that reason, he doesn’t shave and he spends almost the entire film with a grim expression on his face.  Radcliffe’s a good actor and I think he’ll have a long career but he’s just miscast here.  Arthur Kipps is a man who has given up on life and Radcliffe is simply too exuberant of a performer to play defeated.  Oddly enough, Ciaran Hinds (who co-stars in this film) would have made the perfect Arthur.

I did enjoy spotting the various references to other horror films that were littered throughoutThe Woman in Black.  While the film obviously owes its existence to the success of theParanormal Activity films, both the film’s overall plot and isolated village setting reminded me of Mario Bava’s masterpiece, Kill, Baby, Bill.  Furthermore, the film’s somewhat effective ending reminded me of the end of Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery.  I’m not sure if any of those homages were intentional but they were still fun to spot.

So, will the sequel be better than the original?  We’ll find out in 2015!

 

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