MFR Rating: ★ ★
I’m not exactly a horror aficionado but The Woman in Black contains absolutely nothing I don’t feel like I’ve seen a million times before. It’s just another ghost story with things intermittently that jump out at you and really I struggled to feel interested.
Based on the 1983 Susan Hill novel, The Woman in Black is set in Edwardian England about a young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), recently bereaved with a 4 year old son, traveling to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of an angry woman. She is terrorizing the locals with grave repercussions for the children of the village and Mr Kipps finds himself in this dark, haunted world.
The film’s biggest problem is Daniel Radcliffe who just lacks any screen presence and only manages to conjure one single expression throughout the film: blank. I think I can do ‘blank’ pretty well and looking into the mirror I can also do happy and sad so it could be argued I have better range. I’d love to know what he thought he was bringing to the role because he bored me completely. As an interesting aside, I was listening to an interview with Radcliffe on this week’s Kermode and Mayo’s Film review podcast. Although I must make it clear I always find him very charming, personable and energetic in interviews, one quote made me think. He commented that the whole movie industry runs off nepotism, of course. He then added without a hint of irony: “… but in the best possible way” by adding how nice it was that his make up artists during the Harry Potter films spanned generations. Of course no mention that he happens to be the son of two film agents. Given this performance and his lack of magic throughout the Harry Potter films it just shows nepotism might not be the best way to find acting talent, but we can understand why he supports it. Incidentally, the little boy who plays his son in this movie just so happens to be Radcliffe’s godson, with Radcliffe claiming without that personal connection it is very difficult to connect with a 4 year old. It’s called acting, dear boy.
That rather long rant aside, I struggle to find anything about this movie that sticks out. There’s one sequence about 20 or 25 minutes in length without any dialogue as we await the jumps and shock whilst Mr Kipps explores the haunted house which was moderately interesting and occasionally spooky. But I struggled to find any connection with any of it when all Radcliffe provided was his trademark ‘blank’ expression. Incidentally, in the UK it’s a 12a after a few small revisions by the BBFC but I’d certainly give a warning against taking kids smaller than 12 to see this film as the spookiness and jumps will be too scary. But all things considered, really rather forgettable.
The Woman in Black is out now in the UK and US. Running time 95 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank