“Don’t go chasing shadows.”
Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds
Well this is strange.
When a solicitor is sent to a remote village to organise the estate of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow, he discovers a vengeful ghost who is preying upon local children. Being shunned by the community who believe he is bringing about this bad omen, Arthur Kipps (Radcliff) sets about trying to exorcise the scorned spirit before his young son arrives in town.
The first thing that struck me about the film was how well it establishes an ominous feeling that manages to stay with you throughout. From the initial pre-credit scenes to the drained colours and depressing, dreary setting, the dynamics of the film in terms of its set and music was spot on. The old-timey town in which the film is set was also great. It establishes a real sense of isolation and vulnerability that is hard to overcome, especially when the ghost is introduced, which all works to build on the nature of her demise and vengeful streak.
Being Daniel Radcliff’s first major film out of Harry Potter, he has a certain stake resting on him. After starring in the franchise for over 10 years, which spawned a total of 8 films, he had to really break this typecast for the film to be successful. Radcliff, unfortunately, is a disappointment though. Growing up in the Potter role certainly had its advantages, the main one being that they’d never change the lead actor of an established franchise. He had nothing to prove until now.
It’s strange to say I know, but I have never really liked him. Shock-horror. I don’t think he really manages to connect with scripts. His recent claims that he was drunk on a fair amount of his Harry Potter sets might have been a valid explanation for this though, so I was excited to see what he could do, given something totally different from his wizarding world. Unfortunately I don’t really like him in this film either. He seems stiff and unwilling to really convey emotion to its full extent. I don’t think my attitude on him will change until I see him in something that he wows me with either. I honestly feel like he wasn’t a good lead or able to carry the film that successfully. Perhaps because he was trying to act as a widower and father, totally different to his usual schoolboy role, and also the fact that he was interacting with people at least twice his age as his equal. Things just didn’t seem to fit all that well and it had me a bit distracted.
As Arthur, Radcliff is stiff and unconvincing. His difficulty in conveying emotion and making the audience feel for his character is apparent; he doesn’t seem to connect with the script in ways that he should. All we really see him do is run around a haunted house like he’s solving a mystery with Scooby Doo and the gang.
Maybe because he was acting as a widowed father or maybe because he was interacting with people at least twice his age as his equal, but his transition from Potter to Kipps was hard to accept. Maybe he’s just not that great an actor. One thing’s for sure, Radcliff didn’t fully engage with the script and his inability has the audience distracted. Or making countless quips about why he doesn’t just get his wand out.
The Woman in Black is a film full of jumps and surprises that are bound to shock the audience, but this horror isn’t like that of what we have recently become accustomed to – that being countless gore and slasher films. The film relies more on its reputation – being the book and play adaptation – to please its fans, rather than creating new ones through an innovative take on the story. It does have genuinely scary bits though and is a good old throw back to traditional ghost stories, but that is its only real mechanism of scaring the audience. It’s a semi-successful horror with a few jumpy bits and unless you’re an avid Radcliff fan, it won’t leave you feeling any better for watching it.
Star Rating: 5.5/10
Directed by James Watkins.
Running time 95 minutes.