The British country-side is a dreary and mysterious place under normal circumstances; circa turn of the 20th century it’s down-right scary. In an age still burdened with a lack of indoor plumbing small-town folk are set at odds with any stranger, even Harry Potter.
Seems hard to believe, but true! Ok…he’s not really Harry Potter, at least not anymore. But Daniel Radcliffe, on some level, will always be that small boy from the cupboard under the stairs. But like so many actors before him, he is trying very hard to throw off the shackles of youth acting success and type-cast nature of being the star of a preternaturally successful book-turned-movie series.
The Woman in Black is a movie that will certainly help take him steps away from his past, though in the early parts of the movie his forehead is prominently displayed, sans lightning bolt almost to say, “hello world, look…see, it wasn’t really there…”.
But I digress; Radcliffe plays a lawyer named Arthur Kipps who is struggling with the loss of his wife, taken from this world just as his son was brought in. His firm sends him out to a “quiet” coastal town to resolve the last Will and Testament of a house they are overseeing the sale of. Unbeknownst to Kipp he has entered a place of death.
The interesting thing about this movie is that Kipp is not really the star, nor even is the spirit he must tangle with. The star is the house. I said that was interesting…let me rephrase: it’s annoying.
Scary houses can be cool and there are a slew of movies out there to meet the needs of this niche-genre. But The Woman in Black is something of a letdown on a couple fronts. First, the “spirit”, namesake character, is far too prominent. So much so that when she appears in full force at the end of the movie, her essence and the frightening impact it could have, is lost. Second, the movie goes through a sequence of being very repetitive. Kipp is going back and forth from downstairs to upstairs and outside and back inside and back upstairs and back downstairs constantly in search of every random sound in what is clearly an old and rickety house; no doubt full of rats and birds and the like.
Oh, Harry…we always knew Hermione was the brains of the operation, didn’t we.
I will give the writer and director of The Woman in Black credit for creating genuinely scary shock moments. I don’t always get out to see movies with a full theatre like I did tonight and hearing and seeing the reactions of the people proved they were hitting their spots. I would like to give the movie credit for not falling for the trappings of letting the ending come to pass in such a way that the “hero” wins out, since there was no true hero this would have been hard to do anyway. But so many movies these days have moved away from happy endings that it seems only middle of the road amongst its competition in that regard.
Reading this review at face value may make it seem that I did not enjoy the movie or that I wouldn’t recommend it. But this is hardly true. Rather, I would feel like a fraud if I did not give my honest assessment of the film on all levels.
The Woman in Black is definitely worth a watching; either in theatres to get that ‘in-public-and-I-may-scream-like-a-girl’ moment, or wait for DVD to freak yourself out at home with all the lights out. Radcliffe and the rest of the characters give solid performances and do nothing but add to the quality of the film.
I will add this warning that if you are particularly disturbed by decrepit, decaying human bodies or watching small children die, you may want to avoid this one.
Final thought – see it.
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