If you got it, haunt it – The Woman in Black review

The Woman in Black – Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, and Janet McTeer. Directed by James Watkins. Rated M. By Richard Haridy.

The Woman in Black is an earnest attempt at an old-fashioned scare film that ultimately bores with a clunky, repetitive structure. Daniel Radcliffe is frighteningly miscast – in his first post-Potter starring role – as Arthur Kipps, a young, struggling lawyer and father of four-year old Joseph (Misha Handley). Kipps is sent to an isolated village to obtain the sale papers to a large Gothic manor. Upon arriving in town, the residents make it clear they don’t want him around. Secrets are being held and once Kipps reaches the ominous manor he begins to discover there may be some supernatural explanations behind the locals’ mysterious behaviour.

Director James Watkins deserves some credit for keeping his movie almost ostentatiously old-school, relying on creaks, squeaks, and jump-scares rather than the more modern methods of blood and gore. But, after a while, the picture becomes monotonous and bland. Scene after scene follows the same template: Radcliffe wanders the dark house, hears a strange sound, then we jump in fright at a ghost-like flash of the titular ‘woman in black’.

The unironic reliance on horror tropes may strike some as comfortably quaint but you can almost feel Watkins checking off each element one by one. Rocking chair rocking by itself; creepy wind-up puppets; scary music box going off suddenly; doors opening and closing by themselves. The film could make for an amusing horror cliché drinking game, though I’m not sure anyone would be able to survive to the end.

The Woman in Black has a handful of effective spooks and a few clever sequences, but in the end it’s just a little dull and underwhelming. The final 30 minutes in particular is just absurd and it left me more frustrated than unsettled. Fans of Gothic, old-fashioned horror will find something to enjoy here, as will Radcliffe fans who’ve been yearning to see him play something different. Everyone else should be wary.


The Woman in Black arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia September 19, 2012.

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