Towards the end of last year came the release of the British ghost chiller, The Awakening, which, although a disappointment, was an antidote to the current horror trend of gore and Blair Witch-like visuals. Like The Awakening, or perhaps a better example Robert Wise’s The Haunting, The Woman in Black is a horror film that attempts to scare the audience through suggestion rather than blood. Is this to be a worthy success for the great Brit-horror studio, Hammer?
Still traumatised by the death of his wife, young solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) leaves his son in order to clear up the affairs of a recently deceased woman who lived in a remote house. Despite the warnings from the feared villagers, Arthur visits the house where he slowly notices the appearance of a black-hooded figure.
Based on Susan Hill’s novel that was previously adapted for the theatre and for TV, Jane Goldman’s script is very much an old-fashioned gothic horror. In terms of its narrative, it kinds of tick-box the plot points you’d expect, such as the tortured protagonist who enters a fear-infested village in which its inhabitants warn him not to enter the house, but obviously goes in and you wouldn’t believe this, there’s a ghost inside. In nearly every frame, we follow Arthur who is for the most part, alone and we are engaged by the perilous journey he takes.
Having co-written Marc Evans’ My Little Eye and made his directorial debut Eden Lake, James Watkins is confident at making the audience jump as best established in the second act, in which Arthur spends the night in the house where every creaking sound is spine chilling, as well as the terrifying image of a rocking chair. However, as the film approaches its climatic stage, the narrative has to wrap itself up, of which it becomes too conventional and finally leads to an ending that is very ho-hum.
In nearly all of the articles associated with this film, there is a Harry Potter joke due to the casting of The Boy Who Lived himself, which at first seems odd since he looks too young to play a rather grown-up role. However, Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic as the tortured protagonist who feels like an outcast towards the villagers and despite his handsomeness, you will believe he is an adult facing a terrible circumstance. In terms of the supporting cast, Ciaran Hinds is sympathetic as the non-believer, whilst Janet McTeer as his wife who looks whimsy at first, but later becomes tragic and terrifying.
Whilst it does lose its way in the later stage of the narrative, James Watkins’ second feature is a chilling, atmospheric horror with a terrific performance from Mr Radcliffe. Get ready for Harry Potter and the Woman in Black… sorry!
DIRECTOR: JAMES WATKINS
SCREENWRITER: JANE GOLDMAN
STARRING: DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, ROGER ALLAM
RUNTIME: 95 MINS
COUNTRY: UK, CANADA, SWEDEN