Film: The Woman In Black
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe
Directed by: James Watkins
Trying his best to take a semi-bold step away from the world of Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe kicks off his first Rowling-free year with a film that stumbles on fear, but does its absolute best to look good in the process.
Directed by James Watkins (who wrote the fantastic Eden Lake), Hammer Films’ adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black follows a young lawyer (Radcliffe) who discovers the vengeful spirit of a woman while working in a remote village. The setting is overly foggy and isolated, fitting for the film’s gothic tone, but where many recent films such as The Artist and/or Hugo have paid homage to vintage cinema while making it feel welcome once more, the tendency to lean on “old favorite” scare tactics does not comes across as refreshing or engaging as one would hope.
Radcliffe does his best to stretch as the subdued Arthur Kipps, a reasonable choice for his relatively unexperienced dramatic career, but the sell of him as a widower, let alone a father, is still a tough leap. There are moments he transcends recognition, often when wielding a hatchet or reflectively sipping on liquor by candlelight, but they are only short moments buried amongst what feels like a heavy ninety-six minutes. Lucky for Radcliffe (and the audience), the supporting cast is more than capable of holding one’s attention and interest.
Even if one put aside the dull arch of Woman In Black and Radcliffe’s “close but no cigar” acting chops, the film also struggles with pacing. The initial third, hell, two-thirds of the film are spent building suspense and mystery, both of which work to varying degrees, but once push finally comes to shove the film blasts off at break-neck pace until the end. This is not referring to the excitement either, just the progression of the story, and it’s a fault the left me underwhelmed and chuckling as the final frames played out. It was as if they hit the seventy-minute mark and got scared no one would give them another full hour to finish what they set out to accomplish, so instead they did their best to squeeze it all into twenty-three minutes and call it good (it’s not).
Fans of gothic horror, and I mean real gothic horror (not Twilight) may find a fews aspect of The Woman In Black irresistible, but most of what occurs might as well have been left to rot on shelves in underutilized libraries across the planet. The storyline is thin, the twists either ridiculous or silly, and Radcliffe can only momentarily muster any true signs of development as an “artist.” All in all, the only thing truly frightening about The Woman In Black is just how well they sold such a boring film. Somewhere, probably buried in an editing lab, there is a guy who spends his days cutting trailers together that deserves a plethora of high fives. Everyone else, please try again.
Written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)