Based on the Susan Hill novel of the same name, “The Woman in Black” is one of the first horror film releases of 2012. It is directed by James Watkins, written by Jane Goldman and produced by Hammer Film Productions.
The movie follows the trial of a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) who lives with his young son and nanny after his wife died during childbirth. Kipps leaves on a business trip to handle the estate of Alice Drablow, who owned Eel Marsh, where she had lived with her husband, son Nathaniel, and sister Jennet Humfrye. Kipps rents a room in the town, where the people are hostile in a way that can only be seen as stereotypical in horror films. He also befriends a man named Sam Daily, a wealthy landowner who is one of many parents to lose a child to various peculiar accidents in the town.
At the Marsh, Kipps begins sorting through papers but repeatedly hears inexplicable noises and sees a woman dressed in black. As soon as he leaves the Marsh, he encounters a young girl who kills herself by drinking lye. The townspeople become furious with Kipps, blaming him for the girl’s death because whenever someone claims to have seen the mysterious woman dressed in black, a child dies. Several incidents of the same nature occur through the film, with little attempt to offer a creative or alternative explanation.
Those waiting for an M. Night Shyamalan plot twist, or any twist for that matter, will be gravely disappointed. Unfortunately, the film mainly fits the mold for every generic PG-13 horror film known to mankind. It isn’t terribly scary, and it is only saved by the sinister gothic atmosphere and period clothes, which are the only refreshing aspect of the film.
In Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Harry Potter movie role, he doesn’t disappoint but also fails to impress. The role really doesn’t require much of him, and thus the performance (along with the film) is utterly forgettable. However, one can hardly blame him for playing it safe for a film or two after growing up as the cover boy of an overwhelmingly famous franchise.
“The Woman in Black” is worth seeing if you enjoy formulaic horror films. It is a solid old-fashioned haunted house movie, but fails to deliver any surprises in the plot. If you are expecting something that breaks the mold or offers outstanding acting performances, skip it.