The Woman in Black

17 Feb

Title: The Woman in Black
Year: 2012
Director: James Watkins
Writer: Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White
MPAA Rating: PG-13, thematic material and violence/disturbing images
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Metacritic: 62


After the Harry Potter franchise concluded it’s eight-film run in the middle of last year as the highest-grossing film series of all-time, of course interest shifted to how the three young stars of those movies, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who we had seen grow up on screen for a decade, would transition from the roles people associate them as they continued their careers. Emma Watson was the first at it, with a supporting turn in last year’s My Week with Marilyn (which I gave an A to), though that film’s not a great way to measure her post-Potter future since it was so obviously Michelle Williams’ showcase in her Oscar-nominated turn as Marilyn Monroe. She does have a bigger role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky’s upcoming adaptation of his own book, which happens to be one of my favorite books ever, which I’m hugely anticipating, so we’ll see soon enough how she does.

As for Rupert Grint, well, we don’t know; he hasn’t had a role since the wizard franchise came to a close and seeing the titles he has lined up it seems as though he’ll stay in England doing smaller projects, which I guess was to be expected if you saw the stuff he did in between Potter films. Daniel Radcliffe, the boy who lived himself, is thus the first Potter alum who’ll try carrying a film by taking on the leading role then. He of course had a very successful stint on Broadway thanks to the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and was on SNL a few weeks ago when the infamous Lana Del Rey thing happened. As for The Woman in Black, the horror film he’s in, well it’s not half bad, actually.

I liked The Woman in Black because it’s very different from the horror fare that’s coming out these years. You see, it just aims to spook you, to really send chills down your spine in the traditional, old-school way and not one in which gory images and blood is involved like is the case more often than not nowadays. And I loved that, I loved that it was such an old-school spookfest, I thought it was a very good antidote to the high-stakes, all-or-nothing horror movies that we keep getting by the dozens, usually in the shape of sequels or prequels or some other incarnation. The story focuses on Arthur Kipps, the young lawyer played by Mr. Radcliffe, who travels to a small village where he finds out there’s an angry ghost of an old woman frequently terrorizing the locals.

That’s the story, you know? You don’t have to worry about shaky cams or fake found footage or twists and turns, none of that, it’s a straightforward story, and that’s just so rare these days, you just have to appreciate it. It doesn’t try to be loud or revolutionary, it shows restraint, it works with old-school techniques to scare you and it achieves just that. Look, I’m not saying The Woman in Black is a horror masterpiece, not even close, and some of the modern ones I’m denouncing are indeed better than this one, it’s just that I was excited seeing this one about how it brought back a traditional sense of horror filmmaking that I feared pretty much lost. No surprise then to find out that this one was made by the storied Hammer Film Productions, which has made more than its fair share of classic horror stories, and that came back to life only four years ago or so, and already delivered a near-perfect film with 2010’s Let Me In (which I gave an A to).

Everything about this film just feels right. Arthur needs to find an old mansion to get the papers of its late occupant, the aforementioned old lady thats said to haunt the house mourning her dead child, and said to kill other local children as some kind of vengeance. And it has all the typical elements, the small-town residents advising him to better take the next train back home, him saying he can’t because he needs to do his job or else he won’t be able to support his son (his wife passed away during childbirth), the carriage driver saying he can only take him so far, and a mysterious local offering to drive him the rest of the way. And the house is just sheer perfection in its production design and art direction and sound effects; old school horror in modern times done just right.

Like I said, The Woman in Black is far from being a perfect horror movie, but I just really liked to find out that films like this are still being made, and I’m still a bit excited about this as I write this. As for how Mr. Radcliffe fared in his first post-Potter leading role, well, he did just fine actually, even though I’m still hesitant of judging him because the film didn’t really demand all that much from him, instead depending on the awesome haunted house and the more colorful and mysterious supporting cast which included Ciarán Hinds and recent Oscar-nominee Janet McTeer. But still, Mr. Radcliffe did carry the film to very effective results, working really well under the direction of James Watkins to deliver a nice little February spookfest.

Grade: B


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