Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

“I believe the most rational mind can play tricks in the dark.”

Director: James Watkins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds
Writer: Jane Goldman

Mr Radcliffe has a huge task in front of him; he needs to break free from his image of Harry Potter and quick. Despite his theatrical work and some movies in-between Harry Potter, most audiences will associate him with the boy wizard and the type cast curse is just around the corner. Thankfully Hammer studios, the purveyors of British horror have given him a chance to break free with something a lot more adult.

The Woman in Black is a simple story about a young lawyer travelling to a remote village, where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman who is terrorizing the locals. Thanks to the simplicity of the story, the movie can concentrate on creating an eerie atmosphere. Also unlike last years Insidious there is no complicated third act to wreck what was built up. The movie creates a wonderful blend of jump scares, and genuine creepy moments.

Daniel Radcliffe is the centre of this entire movie, and other than one character he is the biggest presence in the movie. It’s his personal journey as well as his horror story. Daniel is fantastic and with this movie proves that his future is bright and one that won’t succumb to the horrors of type casting. If there is one problem, it’s that Daniel Radcliffe still looks very young and I did have some trouble believing him, however it’s not really his problem and as I said his acting is fantastic so the troubles didn’t last long. Also one actor of note is Ciaran Hinds as Daily, one of the locals who actually tries to be a friend to Arthur (Radcliffe). He’s a calming presence in a movie high on the tension. He and Daniel also share a great friend like chemistry.

Visually the movie is very clever and Watkins has a great eye for particular shots. Not only are there the jump scares, but there are visual tricks in the background. What makes these tricks work is there are some shots which look like there is somebody in the background but it turns out to be a statue, or a painting, it’s just the angle which throws us off. Keeping the audience off balance is great for extending the tension as we are never sure what’s real until it’s staring us in the face and making us need a change of pants.

Last year Insidious had a similar effect on me but really blew it with the ending. While I didn’t exactly hate the end’s idea, it did seem to be under developed, and derailed an otherwise scary movie. Woman in Black doesn’t have a huge change in its story, and therefore never derails and in my mind is more successful as a story than Insidious. I did have problems with maybe the last minute of the movie at first, but then thinking about it, it proved a little cleverer than I gave it credit for. However I can see some audience members baulking at it and it could ruin an otherwise great horror movie experience.

I think fans of ghost stories will love this movie. It’s tense, scary and a great return for Hammer movies. Radcliffe proves he’s more than a boy wizard, and I hope he really starts getting into a diverse range of movies. Upon leaving I got the feeling that this movie might be making my top ten. I was jumping a lot and loving every minute of it.


  1. Not especially original and not tremendously scary, but there are a few pleasurable jolts of fear, some shiver-down-your-spine moodiness and it doesn't overstay its welcome for too long. Nice write-up Dan.

  2. Thanks for the nice comments. I think ghost stories get to me more than the average person. Not sure why.