I know I must sound like a broken record by now but I love love love horror films. Naturally I was excited for The Woman in Black, Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe’s first post-Potter foray. Creepy zombie kids crawling out of the muck, scary women in black peeping from windows, and D-Rad dressed in late 19th century garb? I’m for it.
So, I nestled into my seat last night and prepared myself for what would hopefully be the first really great horror film of the year. Did it deliver? Did it disappoint? Did I have nightmares? You’ll just have to read on to find out!
The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
Release Date: February 3rd
The film tells the story of young lawyer, widower, and single father Arthur Kipps (D-Rad), who has one last chance to show his boss that he’s worth keeping on board. His task is to go through the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. He leaves his son with the nanny, with plans for them to meet him in the cheery (re: not cheery) town Alice lived in by the weekend. Upon arriving in the town, it takes all of thirty seconds or so to find out there’s something very wrong. Kipps begins seeing a woman in black and kids start to die mysteriously. It soon turns into an episode of Supernatural as Kipps races against time as he tries to solve the mystery of the titular character and save all the childrens.
The story, based on the novel of the same name, wasn’t too bad. Standard for sure (town full of unfriendly locals with a dark secret, single father whose child ends up in harm’s way, creepy dolls), but entertaining enough. Unlike many films of its ilk, The Woman in Black has a totally legitimate explanation for its title character and her actions.
There weren’t a lot of actors worth mentioning outside of Daniel Radcliffe, who was himself perfectly adequate as our too-brave-for-his-own-good hero, but Ciarán Hinds and Janet McTeer, who appeared as Kipps’ de facto sidekick Sam Daily and his wife Mrs. Daily, were terrific. There’s a scene where Kipps joins them for dinner that really shows you the effect our woman in black has had on this town and it’s very reminiscent of Roseanne and Tom Arnold in Freddy’s Dead, the last really goofy installment of Nightmare on Elm Street. Radcliffe himself did little more than emote and carry a hatchet around briefly throughout the film, but he did it well and isn’t the worst grown-up British child actor that could have been in this film.
Sadly, for every creepy, subtle scare in this film, there’s about twice as many jump scares. Worse, they’re kind of predictable. Oh, a hand print on the window? You’re reaching out to touch it? I hope there’s not a scary face in the window when you do. Oh, there was. Cue group shriek. Now, that’s not to say it’s not good, it’s just cheap.
On the bright side, the cinematography and score both helped really offset the cheapness of the telegraphed jump scares. Lots of dutch angles, big, moody establishing shots, and creepy music helped set (and re-set) the mood over and over. My favorite scene in the film made excellent use of candlelight and creepy dolls to create the effect that they’re watching the young Mr. Kipps that I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It was such a simple trick, but oh-so-effective.
My biggest complaint with the movie is that the ending was kind of ruined a scene before with a very, very heavy-handed bit of foreshadowing. It almost feels wrong calling it foreshadowing. It was more like hitting you in the head with a shovel over and over. You’ll see what I mean.
Predictable ending and jump scares aside, I enjoyed this movie. It was moody, atmospheric, and by-and-large, pretty solid. Will it be my favorite horror film of the year? No, but at least it has an ending, unlike some other films that have come out since the doomsday clock started. If you’re a D-Rad fan, love horror films, or just like scenic British villages, The Woman in Black shouldn’t disappoint.