The Woman in Black (12A)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/02/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Watchable horror from the newly revived Hammer Studios that's strong on atmosphere but never quite gets under your skin the way it ought to, thanks to a frustrating script and the fact that Radcliffe is distractingly miscast.

What's it all about?
Directed by James Watkins and based on both the hit stage play and the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black is set in the early 1900s and stars Daniel Radcliffe as the recently widowed Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who leaves his adorable four year old son (Misha Handley) with his nanny while he travels north in order to settle an estate in an isolated seaside village. When he arrives, Kipps finds the locals less than welcoming and it isn't long before he discovers spooky goings-on at the abandoned mansion, with the apparition of a woman in black (Liz White) cropping up at suitable intervals.

After some rudimentary investigating, Kipps discovers that the locals are terrified because of a spate of mysterious and tragic deaths involving children, all of which seem to be tied up with the mysterious woman. And with his own son due to arrive in the village by the end of the week, Kipps realises that he has to somehow appease the woman in black before it's too late.

The Good
Radcliffe is nominally fine as Kipps, though he's not required to do all that much other than walk around and gaze in open-mouthed wonder a lot (much as he did in the first Harry Potter movie). However, his casting is ultimately distracting, because he just looks too young to have a four year old son.

Watkins (who made Eden Lake) builds a suitably creepy atmosphere throughout and is a dab hand at creating shocks of the long-stretch-of-nothing-followed-by-SUDDEN-NOISE or things-jumping-out-at-you variety. It's also beautifully shot, courtesy of Tim Maurice-Jones' shadowy cinematography and some impressive production design work.

The Bad
The main problem, as the film's 12A certificate suggests, is that it simply isn't scary enough and never gets under your skin in the same way as its obvious references (e.g. The Innocents, The Others or The Haunting); it's also fair to say that the various shocks eventually become frustrating because very little actually happens. On top of that, Hindley's character is offscreen for most of the film, so we're not emotionally invested in the danger he may or may not be in and, in retrospect, the film would have been much creepier with Kipps' son also staying at the house.

Worth seeing?
The Woman in Black is entirely watchable and delivers an acceptable amount of jumps and shocks, but it's never genuinely scary and is unlikely to give anyone nightmares.

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Content updated: 12/05/2012 14:42

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