69. The Woman in Black – James Watkins (2012)

First Viewing.

There’s not been too many horror reviews over the past 60+ entries on this blog, I’ve never really been the biggest fan of the genre. However, there are a few that I do love, The Exorcist, naturally, The Fly (1986 version), possibly not quite a horror, but pretty damn creepy, El Ofanto, and a small bunch of Asian films. That’s about it. The problem that I have with the whole genre is that I’m not really scared by them, and this isn’t a macho boast or anything, cos there’s plenty of things that do scare me, like people preparing my food with dirty hands, Joan Rivers/Pete Burns’ plastically altered faces, or getting a really bad hair cut.  Horror films, on the other hand, don’t bring on the night terrors, so when I see a horror flick it needs to be more than something just trying to scare the crap out of me. So, bearing that in mind, I present a quick review of The Woman in Black.

We all know Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, even to someone like me who’s only seen a couple of the films and never read any of the books he is Harry Potter. He’ll always be known for those performances. This is the first role I’ve seen him in playing someone other than a wizard, and, I suspect, the first time most other people have too. So, the big question is, does he manage to jump out of that huge spectacled shadow? I would say yes, to a certain extent. His performance is very sound, well acted, and I didn’t expect him to call for Ron at the first sign of trouble. However, I don’t think he was quite right for the role, he seems way too young. The story revolves around Arthur (Radcliffe) visiting a house, circa 1910, that has recently had a death in it, and his job is to correct paperwork for a will. Arthur is also a widower, and left with a young son. As you can guess certain things start happening to Arthur once he reaches the house, and so on…. The problem I had with Radcliffe playing a widower like Arthur is that he doesn’t carry enough gravitas or weariness to make the character seem real. He’s too fresh-faced. He does the best he can under the circumstances, but, picking a name off the top of my head,  say Johnny Depp, for instance, he would have been much more suitable. This isn’t so much a criticism of Radcliffe, but more of the casting process for the film. No doubt though having Radcliffe attached certainly helped get the movie made and, subsequently, receive plenty of attention in the press when it was released, so I can see why he’s in the lead role.

The film, as a whole, is pretty good. It ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to horror; it’s not utterly predictable, it’s fairly suspenseful and it doesn’t have characters walking around doing completely stupid things like so many other horrors movies do. I’ve always been an advocate of the “less is more” approach to making a horror. I honestly don’t want to see dozens of people sawn to death (unless it’s the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and so on, but give me flickering ghosts/people in the corner of the room, and some creepy music and I’m a lot more happy. Building up suspense is a much underrated movement in modern horror it seems. Thankfully The Woman in Black goes for the understated approach, in fact, it does it even more than I thought possible. It really takes it too the limit, and, I guess, perhaps that’s why this film doesn’t get the best wrap from other viewers. It’s, arguably, a little too slow and methodical for most peoples taste. I liked it though.

All in all I don’t really have too many complaints. It’s a good “nuts and bolts” horror as Mark Kermode would say, and that’s fine with me.

Marks out of ten – Seven.



Filed under British

10 responses to “69. The Woman in Black – James Watkins (2012)

  1. Great review, I still need to watch this.

  2. This is a cool film. I’m like you in that horror films don’t particularly frighten me. But despite that I have been getting increasingly into the genre over the past few years. Classic examples anyway. Off the top of my head have particularly enjoyed Carpenter’s Halloween, An American Werewolf in London and The Shining.

    • I’ve not seen An American Werewolf, but it’s on the old list of things to see. I completely forgot about how fantastic The Shining is, to a certain extent I forget that it’s even a horror. It’s so disturbing, that I think of it as being in it’s own Kubrickian genre.

      • You’re absolutely right about The Shining. IN many ways your comment explains a lot of Kubrick’s films. He was possibly the greatest ‘genre’ filmmaker ever. But his films had this strange way of embracing, and transcending their genres at the same time.

      • I haven’t ever thought of Kubrick as a genre filmmaker, not like say John Ford, but I can see what you mean by it. Films like The Killing, Paths of Glory and Spartacus obviously are, but because he has such unusual films, like Clockwork Orange, you tend to see him in his own genre.

  3. I thought Radcliffe did a good job here but it would be better if the movie came out a bit later – it was too soon after Harry Potter. The film was all right, the cinematography was gorgeous and the haunted house was really freaky but I felt it was a bit too slow and too short – it also lacked substance as most of the movie was just radcliffe running around the house. The original was much better and much creepier.

    • I agree, there’s certainly good things about the film, it looked fantastic, but overall it wasn’t quite as good as it could have been….I haven’t seen the original, is it similar?

      • The actor playing the lawyer is much older than Radcliffe and I tihnk the bit with his wife is diferrent – she is alive in this one. And the film is really freaky, very old school horror movie without many jump scares but with great atmosphere.

      • I might have to keep a look out for it and see how it compares.

  4. This one was a little bit creepier than I was expecting it to be and that’s all that matters because of what we usually get in today’s day and age of horror flicks. Radcliffe was a little too young to be playing a daddy though. He goes from little Harry, to all of a sudden getting a chick knocked up, then marrying her, and raising a kid all by himself? Hardly believable. Good review.

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