“Slap some stubble on him and e’ll look 10 years older.” At least this must have been the thinking behind the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as the lead for ‘The Woman in Black’.
The story follows a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who is forced to leave his three-year-old son and travel to a remote village to attend to the affairs of the recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House. When he arrives, he soon realises that he is not alone in the old mansion; the spectre of a woman in black and the secrecy of the villagers hides dark secrets.
It is a fairly well crafted horror. Its builds tension slowly and then at times hurtles a relentless sequence of jumps at the audience. There are some truly grotesque moments and no lack of coincident brutalities; helped by the age old haunted mansion setting, filled with many a stuffed monkey marvel and suitably subversive Victorian toys of the era, there to fill nightmares rather than to be played with. (I do wonder whether Pokemon would be quite as terrifying 100 years down the line, but I digress)
It is understandable that the casting of Daniel Radcliffe does fit the spec, except for the fact that he looks unduly younger than his age. The character of Arthur Kipps is one who has supposedly lost his wife and is raising a child on his own, but it is difficult to suspend judgement when clearly the rest of the people who surround him look essentially thrice his age. The initial shot of the Kipps shaving his stubble seemed to enforce the idea that his youthful appearance is a hurdling block. That is not to dispel Radcliffe’s ability to perform well in this role; he does have the propensity of someone beyond his years and is able to look like he has just seen Danny Dyer win a best actor award (shocked). Scaring his character though proves rather trying at times.
The film’s story works along the lines of a murder mystery unravel, but plays out in a simplified fashion, lacking in subtlety. The woman in black, as a tortured soul, is not supported with much understanding or reasoning; frustratingly an intricate subplot is alluded to through voice over, but takes a backseat to the scares and frights (imagine the moment in a film where a character starts to read a found transcript , hearing the person’s voice and we get whisked away in time, except it doesn’t happen and we carry on hearing the voice over). Likewise the flashbacks to the image of his Kipps’ wife leads to confusion more than forbearance. This was the difficultly in adapting it for the screen and clearly one was sacrificed for the other.
Like most horror it is pushed forward by the lead’s tenacity, but unlike most, it actually has a fairly interesting story and motive but has some way to go from the book it was adapted from. The classic craft of scares works well with its dread; I defy you not to grimace and stop a racing heart when it reaches its highs.
Incase you’re scared here’s the original pre-photoshop version of the The Woman in Black theatrical poster:
Yes.. that is a baby with a beard.
Reviewer: Dexter Kong
Release Date: 10/2/2012
Director: James Watkins
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds
Rating: 12A (UK)
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