“Here comes the Woman in Black / Murderous Offender / Here comes the Woman in Black / She’s hard not to remember.” Yes, those are the catchy lyrics to Will Smith’s “Men in Black” with a few alterations of my own, but it is hard not to manipulate the lyrics of the chorus to fit this film even though they are leagues apart in genre and story. It simply could not be helped.
Instead of space invaders playing the antagonist to our lead, The Woman in Black is built around the haunted house structure of the horror subgenre as a woman’s angry spirit haunts the grounds and interior of a solitary house cut off from the main land by the tide for large percentages of the day. Following the death of the previous owner, Arthur Kipps is sent to put her affairs in order, setting in motion a spree of tragedy in the nearby village at the hands of this vengeful ghost.
For those who are familiar with the subgenre, from films like Paranormal Activity to The Grudge, then you will have a decent understanding of what to expect from this story. The film starts with a rather gripping intro scene as the rest of the film takes its time to slowly build to some rather aggressive haunting. The tension in the film is ever present with the overall look of darker shadows and bleak melancholy within a house that seems to avoid being warmed with light, even with the candlelight trying to diffuse through the dense shadows. With every shot comes the possibility that something will jump out at our lead, and though cheap scares are named that for a reason, during the length of this film they often relieve the audience of the building tension, so I welcome them with open arms.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Kipps, a man who comes to a village full of residents trying to send him home without revealing their fears, so his first visit is free of the superstitions of those familiar with the story of the house. His long history as Harry Potter does not impede on the acceptance of his role in this film, and in all honesty, I am sure much of his time spent lurking around the dark halls of Hogwarts as evil creatures tried to do him harm actually aided him with this character. The only problem with his casting is that he looks too young to be the father of a four-year-old boy, but he earns his keep with the work he does. Then again, I spent a large percentage of the film actually looking in the background of the camera frame instead of paying close attention to Radcliffe for fear of what may be observing him from the shadows…
The Woman In Black may be the perfect example of a well-worn category of horror films, what separates it from many like those I mentioned above is that its setting as a period piece removes a lot of the complaints common for this genre. A lot of haunted house films lead to a lot of screaming at the main character for being an idiot for hunting down strange noises in an upstairs room instead of booking it straight out the door, but Kipps doesn’t have our paranoia tacked on by years and years of films that have taught us of the idiocy of falling for these classic horror traps. Not only that, but there is just something about this period of dress that is creepy. Just look at those dark leather shoes women wore! And all those stuffed monkeys! [Shudders]
A great step for Radcliffe post his Harry Potter run, The Woman In Black comfortably fits into the horror genre with its overall creepiness and shocks that will make you jump in your seat (even if you see them coming), and I actually commend it for the ending it chose in terms of how to deal with resolution. So though it is nothing incredibly new, it still gets the recommend from me.
Final Grade: B Follow @BewareOfTrees