Today I’ll be laying down some hardcore judgment on the 2012 horror movie, The Woman in Black, starring none other than the Boy Who Lived himself. While it may attract some traditional horror fans, my guess is that a great deal of people saw this movie to see if Daniel Radcliffe can be anything else but Harry Potter. The answer is yes and no, but I’ll get into that later.
The Woman in Black sets the stage for creepiness right off the bat with an opening scene involving three little girls taking a break from tea time to collectively jump out of a window while a music box plays. From there we’re whisked away to Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a young lawyer pained by the memory of his wife who died giving birth to his son Joseph. Long story short, Arthur has to go to the house of a recently deceased woman to pour through a load of legal documents regarding her estate, and he is told that if he doesn’t do so he is out of the job. From there, the story proceeds as you would expect any haunted house story to; main character gets to new town, townspeople tell him to stay away from the house, main character doesn’t listen, subsequently spends the next 90 minutes getting terrified by increasingly freaky stuff.
As far as the horror aspect of the movie goes, it is of a much more traditional sort than most modern horror movies have been. There is no crazed murderer, no scenes of nauseating gore, and altogether a fairly low amount of actual death. Instead, The Woman in Black relies on scene after scene of building suspense and tension to a crescendo until something happens to make the audience jump out of its socks. While it does a great job of making these “gotcha” scares effective, barely any of those scares end in anything actually happening to anybody which diminishes their effectiveness as time goes by.
Part of the problem with this is that there are very few characters for things to happen to. Aside from Arthur, the only really significant character is Daily, Arthur’s token skeptic companion played by Ciaran Hinds (a wonderful British actor who you’ve likely never heard of but would instantly recognize). The nice thing about the typical “serial killer” horror movie formula is that there are generally at least four or five characters available for getting the axe any time in the movie, which means that you don’t know who will survive the next 10 minutes. With the Woman in Black, Arthur is both the main character and more-often-than-not the only character on screen, so we know that he’s probably going to be alright (at the very least until the end of the movie) no matter what pops out at him out of the dark.
And so we get to young master Radcliffe who, like his Twilight counterpart Robert Pattinson, is doing his best to break out of his young adult character’s shackles. While Pattinson has had some degree of success with this in recent movies like Water for Elephants and Bel Ami, Radcliffe has not had it so easy. His performance in The Woman in Black is at least a step in the right direction though. Combine a few years of age, a sharp suit and a healthy dose of sideburns and we get a much more mature looking Daniel. Unfortunately, his voice has not aged with him and there are many lines in the movie which make it impossible not to think of young Harry (it doesn’t help that at 5’5″ he still looks like he’s trying real hard to dress up and play with the grown-ups). I did find myself rooting for Arthur in this movie though, and while I still think an older actor would have been a better choice for the role, I still felt like Arthur was an above average character surrounded by an average movie.
The Verdict: 6/10 Passable
The Woman in Black is a good horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies. The scares are all there with a decent storyline to back it all up, but there isn’t much to distinguish it from other similar haunted house movies. I’d say rent it if you’re looking for a good date night scary movie that wont make you want to vomit afterwards.