The Woman In Black
Daniel Radcliffe's first post-Potter film lacks the requisite scares for a classic ghost story
Susan Hill’s Victorian ghost story has been terrifying theatre audiences for the best part of twenty-five years, second only to The Mousetrap as the longest running show in the history of London’s West End. It has already been effectively adapted for stage, radio and television and would seem to offer perfect material for the revived Hammer Films. The producers have made some smart choices from selecting Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) to write the screenplay to signing up Eden Lake's James Watkins directs and Daniel Radcliffe is their star. Yet despite all these promising elements, there is no denying that The Woman In Black is a dull, old-fashioned affair, long on atmosphere and decidedly short on terror.
Watkins makes good use of some spectacular rural landscapes as Radcliffe’s earnest young lawyer Arthur Kipps arrives at a remote English village to conclude the estate of the late Alice Drablow. It is an area heavy with mist and foreboding and the Drablow house is surrounded by treacherous marshlands and completely cut off from the mainland at high tide. The locals are straight out of a Hammer film from the 1950s regarding him with wide-eyed hostility. Anyone who dares to break the silence urges him to finish his business and return to London.
The Woman In Black is initially intriguing but the days when shoogly windows, creaky floorboards and slamming doors could make you jump out of your seat are long gone. The sudden appearance of a mystery woman in widow’s weeds or a cat leaping into view have limited impact and lend the film a quaint, vintage Hammer feel. The more it unfolds, the more the tension seems to drain away and despite a commendable performance from Radcliffe, The Woman In Black simply fails to deliver.
General release Fri 10 Feb.