Blu-ray Review: The Woman in Black / Cert: 15 / Director: James Watkins / Screenplay: Jane Goldman / Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Stuckley / Release Date: June 18th
When it was released in February, Hammer’s The Woman in Black made an obscene amount of money in the UK. Audiences seemed genuinely captured by this supernatural tale based on a book, which was then a play and is now a film. What was it that drew them in though? Was it the presence of Daniel Radcliffe? Was it the history of the property and its successful stage production? Or were people just in the mood for a good old fashioned spook fest? Due to its success you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that the film was some kind of classic and a true return to form for Hammer. However, temper your expectations if you missed it first time around.
The haunted and grieving lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is whisked away to the countryside to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House. Whilst in the nearby village, Kipps begins to uncover a tragic and haunted past and that the village’s children seemingly do not live very long. Staying alone at the mansion, Kipps uncovers a secret and is menaced by the ghost of an angry woman who is back for vengeance.
Ok so the play and book may date back to before the current supernatural craze began but the elements of The Woman in Black have all been seen before in about five different films from recent years. The house is right out of The Others and the malevolence is from Insidious. Sadly the miscasting is right out of Bram Stokers Dracula as Daniel Radcliffe seems the biggest mistake since Keanu Reeves played Jonathan Harker. I’ve always felt that Radcliffe felt uncomfortable in the Harry Potter films and here he is perhaps the most uncomfortable he has ever been, even without that many lines. He simply is not convincing as a grieving man with a child, he doesn’t seem old enough and looks like a kid on work experience at a museum. Radcliffe does well in the scenes where he has to creep about with a candle and act scared but everything else just falls flat on its face.
Due to this one fatal flaw The Woman in Black is held back in the classic horror stakes because, although derivative, everything else around the performance works wonders. The screenplay by Jane Goldman is very well paced, taking time to build its setting and the environment and the direction by James Watkins is great with a number of well-timed scares. The production design is also fantastic, littering the locations with odd little details that add to the overall eerie atmosphere including the creepiest toys ever seen on film.
The Woman in Black is a solid, haunting but flawed supernatural melodrama best enjoyed with the lights off.
Special Features: Commentary, Making of, Interviews, Red Carpet Special, Ghost story read by Daniel Radcliffe, Photo Galleries, Trailers.