The Woman in Black follows gothic horror conventions so closely that you might be forgiven to think there is a millennial shocker waiting to jump out of some forgotten Edwardian corner. There is the morose widower, the mad woman in the attic, the restless, vengeful spirit, things that go bump in the night, the gloomy old mansion, the fog, the marsh and many other easily recognisable elements of a ghost story. While the film scrupulously follows conventions, it offers the comfort of expected chills and thrills.
Based on Susan Hill's 1983 novel of the same name, The Woman in Black tells the story of a lawyer Arthur Kipps, who lives with his four-year-old son, Joseph in 19th century London. Arthur lost his wife in childbirth. He is sent to the north of England to settle the estate of Alice Drablow who lived in Eel Marsh House with her husband, son, Nathaniel and sister, Jennet. Though the locals are not particularly welcoming of Arthur, he finds a room in the inn and goes over to the gloomy Eel Marsh House to go through the papers. Strange things happen in the house and the children of the village seem doomed to a horrid fate.
Produced by Hammer films that made all those jolly horror films in the Fifties and the Sixties, The Woman in Black almost seems to be paying homage to those glorious gothic films. The modern twist is given in having Daniel Radcliffe, who embodies the quintessential millennial hero in Harry Potter, play Kipps. Casting Radcliffe as Kipps is a mistake because he is a distractingly bad actor and just doesn't have the acting chops to carry a film on his own.
Without quidditch, the scar, glasses and the best and brightest from British stage and screen to back him, Radcliffe is gravely out of his depth as the grieving widower, the caring father and terrified-out-of-his-wits man. The film has its creepy moments complete with sudden loud noises, scary clowns and lovely antique toys that come viciously to life. The Woman Lady in Black scores in every department except for its leading man. And more is the pity.
The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White
Storyline: Sinister things happen to a lawyer who goes to a remote village to settle an estate
Bottomline: Traditional haunted house story delivering solid thrills