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Movie Reviews

The Woman In Black



Released: February 10th 2012 (UK)

Directed By: James Watkins

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds

Certificate: 12A (UK)

Reviewed By: Luke Walkley

Daniel Radcliffe stars in the big screen adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel, ‘The Woman In Black’. Radcliffe’s first major role since Harry Potter sees him playing Arthur Kipps, A young lawyer who travels to a remote village where he soon discovers the spirit of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.

Since his wife’s passing, Arthur’s standard of work has slipped and so, given one last chance to salvage his career and provide for his young son, he travels to the country village in order to sort the paperwork of a deceased client of the firm. His arrival in the village is cause for much anger amongst the locals, who, afraid of what his arrival means for them and the fabled ’Woman In Black’ turn against him.

The first thing to notice about ‘The Woman In Black’ is the stunning locations used for filming. The picturesque island set amongst the boggy marshes of Essex in England. The film sets an artful tone with a memorable opening and several scenes that give real substance to the plot. The score , while often slow and reserved lends itself to create a chilling atmosphere reminiscent of classic horrors.

The storyline was never in doubt, the main focal point would be how the language of the book would translate onto screen. Radcliffe’s performance is decent yet not over-bearing on the overall feel of the film. This might not necessarily be intentional, though it works to the films advantage, allowing the viewer to focus on the surrounding environment and not the star of the show.

The Woman In Black appeared to prove more than a standard horror. Unfortunately it becomes its own worst enemy by falling into the horror clichés that have been seen time and time again. Predictable scenes, relying heavily on loud noises and generic frights, become commonplace and eventually causing the viewer to become frustrated by the lack of risk taking in James Watkins direction. It seems that instead of experiment with new ways of delivering Horror, most directors are happy to allow their work to fall into the pre determined categories laid down by their peers.

It was critical for Radcliffe to step away from his former role of Harry Potter in the hugely popular saga and it seemed nothing would be better than a dark horror. However it is unfortunate for him, that almost instantly, despite his new found stubble, he still looks ridiculously young.  His mannerisms and voice haven’t changed and its impossible for the viewer to forget about his previous life. This said, the filmmakers have not helped with their inclusion of certain aspects that only trigger Harry Potter references, a train that looks remarkably like the Hogwarts Express and a distinct similarity to the grave in which Dumbledore was buried along with the Elder Wand. Perhaps the screenwriters could have done more to stray away from these easily avoidable moments, that while included in the original book, could have been skimmed over with a lot less emphasis.

The Woman In Black offers a solid storyline, decent acting and stunning locations. However, its refusal to take risks means that it falls into the forgettable horror category alongside the vast majority of recent films dubbed ‘Horror’. Radcliffe doesn’t do much to distance himself from the Potter typecast and one can only help but feel it will be a long time before he is able to shift the metaphorical lightening shaped scar from his forehead.  The Woman In Black creates several worthwhile moments however, they are lost in the mist of mediocrity that surrounds them.

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