THE WOMAN IN BLACK
***1/2 (out of 5)
February 3, 2012
Daniel Radcliffe as ARTHUR KIPPS
Ciarán Hinds as DAILY
Janet McTeer as MRS. DAILY
David Burke as PC COLLINS
Shaun Dooley as FISHER
Directed by: James Watkins
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There are so many fads and short-lived trends in the horror genre these days. While the 2000s saw the rise and fall of torture porn and J-horror, the 2010s are now seeing the rise (and eventual fall) of found footage horror. This, of course, isn’t unique to our decade. The 70s saw video nasties, and the 80s saw slasher films. Even before that, you had the monster movies of the 40s and the giant bug-eyed monster movies of the 50s.
No matter what current horror trend you’re suffering through, it’s nice to see a film that either taps into an older stand-by or just enjoys a resurgence of classic horror. Last year, both “Insidious” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” turned their back on graphic violence and video camera POV to tell old-school horror tales. This year, “The Woman in Black,” while not as good as these other two films, continues this welcome trend.
In “The Woman in Black,” Daniel Radcliffe plays a man in the late 1800s who is sent to a small English village to settle the estate of a dead woman. Once he gets there, he is shunned by the villagers, who seem to see him as a harbinger of doom. The more time he spends in the dead woman’s house, the more he realizes that she might still be lurking around as a vengeful spirit.
Co-produced by the recently resurrected Hammer Films, “The Woman in Black” is a very simple ghost story without forced twists and turns. It doesn’t rely on a tightly-wound plot or mysterious characters. Instead, it relies on the atmosphere, creepiness and suspense.
Sure, the movie overdoes these things at times. However, I’d take crisply shot creepiness over handheld shakycam any day. “The Woman in Black” isn’t as intense as “Insidious,” but it does employ many of the jump-scare techniques which result from a loud noise after a long build of quietness.
Unfortunately, this means the movie is going to be better than almost any audience you’ll see it with. Long, slow shots are murder on the modern audience. So, if you see this movie, be prepared for an entire army of idiots pulling out their cell phones to text, tweet and check the movie’s IMDb page. Also expect plenty of chattering from the audience as they speculate on the relatively simple story. This, sadly, is one of the more maddening elements of this film. So, it might be a better experience alone in your house on your HD television.
But the movie is still enjoyable to watch on the big screen. The surround sound is important to the presentation, though not as much as it was with “Insidious.” Still, it’s old-school slow-burn horror. It’s all about atmosphere, and that’s a refreshing trend from most cookie-cutter mainstream PG-13 horror. (And yes, I do realize this movie is PG-13 as well, but it feels like it was shot that way rather than aiming for the high school crowd in order to maximize audience.)
Finally, I have to commend Daniel Radcliffe in this role. While “The Woman in Black” involves the supernatural, it’s quite a departure from the Harry Potter films (well, except for something at the end, which you’ll recognize if you’ve seen all those films, but I won’t give anything more away on that). Watching the film, I never felt like I was watching the famous boy wizard, and that’s great for Radcliffe. If he plays his cards right, he might end up with quite a career after being stuck at Hogwarts for a decade of his life.