I’ll begin by saying that I have read the book- what school kid hasn’t? But I wasn’t expecting to be scared by The Woman in Black…again!
The film follows the events of Susan Hill’s novel pretty closely- Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer who is sent to the middle of nowhere to deal with a deceased client’s affairs. This means trooping down to a creepy house built on a spit of land only accessible at literally low tide- perfect for a horror story, terrible if looking for a quick sale. And, naturally, he encounters an evil spirit bent on revenge.
From a filmmaker’s point of view, it’s a solid construction- the best aspect is the lighting because…well, there isn’t any. It is very dark, cold and grey, giving the film an almost Gothic quality. The locations and sets are spot on, particularly the interiors for Eel Marsh House. The shocking ending is handled brilliantly, with a closing shot that will cut you to the bone. Kudos to the director, James Watkins.
Daniel Radcliffe is fine in the lead role. It’s refreshing to see him outside of the Harry Potter world, but there is an essence of the character that made him famous in Arthur Kipps. In The Woman in Black there’s a lot of poking around rooms in the dark and being up to no good, all of which we’ve seen before. Eight times before, in fact. That said, he carries the film well, and is well supported by the solid Ciaran Hinds, who plays his only friend in the village, Sam Daily.
Overall, The Woman in Black is a great winter chiller. There are plenty of scary moments that will make you spill your popcorn. It’s encouraging to see a British film in the cinema and a good one at that. I wouldn’t say it was an inspiring performance by Daniel Radcliffe, but audiences will enjoy seeing their favourite wizard in a (slight) change of scene. But I think we can leave this story now- in this country we’ve had a long running stage play, a radio play and now two films… put down that whip, Hollywood. This horse is dead.
My rating: 4/5