The Woman In Black (2012)

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a struggling young lawyer left to raise a son alone when his wife dies during childbirth. Assigned to handle the late Alice Drablow’s estate, Eel Marsh House, Arthur arranges to have Joseph (Misha Handley) and the boy’s nanny meet him at the property once he has finished that weekend weekend, and departs for the Marsh. Introduced to wealthy landowner Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds) on the train, Arthur sorts out his accommodation amidst resistance from the enigmatic townspeople before making his way up to the house alone. As he begins to investigate Eel Marsh’s history, however, Arthur begins to question just how alone he actually is.

The long-gestated return of Hammer Horror has so far been met largely with indifference. With such recent releases as unnecessary remake Let Me In and seedy thriller The Resident failing to impress either cinemagoers or critics, it was starting to look as though the banner might never reach the heights of its much celebrated heyday. Enter The Woman In Black: James Watkins’ adaptation of the Susan Hill novel of the same name. Following in the footsteps of the esteemed stage play, the film offered the studio the opportunity to bring one of literatures most respected ghost stories to the big screen, itself a relative newcomer that didn’t even exist during its own Golden Age.

The film is a beautifully shot, sparingly scripted masterclass in tension and Gothic atmosphere, its stripped-back approach to the genre gifting it with a stateliness and tradition sorely lacking in the torture porn and found footage gimmickry which has come to define the last decade. Rated 12A, it is impressive just how much dread Watkins can fashion from a simple creaking floorboard, a collection of cracked porcelain dolls and other such well-worn clichés. There is nothing new here, and yet it has been so long since the horror genre has been afforded such dignity and respect that a sense of originality ensues regardless.

A meditation on death and loss, there is a depth of character here at odds with the customary buxom teenagers and unbelieving parents. Daniel Radcliffe is quite simply superb as the shell of Arthur Kipps, his apparent youth a technicality robbed of consequence by the tale’s period setting. It is testament to the actor’s growth that Kipps doesn’t merely resemble an unshaven Harry Potter, investigating a Hogwarts outhouse in his dress robes. The character – by turns father, young man and troubled lawyer – is as far removed from the boyish heroism of his charismatic Chosen One as it is possible to get.

If The Woman In Black has any weakness at all it is in the woman herself. Considering the influence of the source novel and the transmedia legacy of the character, her onscreen portrayal is disappointingly half-baked and forgettable. The Woman In Black, rather than claiming her rightful place in the genre pantheon of wicked witches, supernatural slashers and straggly-haired Sadakos, instead hides from view, loitering passively in the shadows until a decidedly disappointing reveal. While her reputation definitely precedes her, and the film makes the most of its maiden’s menace, the payoff never really comes.

A classy and considered chiller, and a welcome return to form for Hammer Horror, Watkins’ The Woman In Black is a jittery and unnerving joy from beginning to end. With one too many shots of Radcliffe walking the same corridor and a resolutely non-physical phantom, however, it never quite delivers on its potently portentious potential to become the classic it perhaps deserves to be.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to The Woman In Black (2012)

  1. Pingback: February 2012 – Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The Awakening (2011) « popcornaddict

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