Tag Archives: movie

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.

 

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61. Synecdoche, New York – Charlie Kaufman (2008)

First Viewing.

Synecdoche, New York is one of those films I’ve been planning on catching it since it’s release five years ago, but it’s kept eluding me. I’ve always liked, maybe not loved, Kaufman’s scripts – I’m one of the few who’d take Adaptation over Eternal Sunshine – and have been anxious to see what kind of director he is. As you may have guessed, I’ve finally  managed to see Synecdoche, and, after much anticipation, I’m a little unsure of what I’ve just witnessed. The plot is unexplainable, I won’t even attempt it, but  IMDB has a stab at it with this, “A theater director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play.” – I’m not sure that even covers 5% of what this movie is about. There is no reality, anything can happen, time shifts forward at random intervals, and logic doesn’t play any part in the structure of the film. Characters exist in ways that escape definition. It’s all very abstract and postmodern. And part of me enjoyed the dreamlike quality of the film, but the cynical part of me wants to dismiss the film, and it’s many fans, as just following the Emperor’s new clothing. It doesn’t engage me the same way Lynch’s Mulholland Drive or Inland Empire does. I’m sure a repeat viewing would help immensely, but I think I’m going to need a few months before I want to sit through S-NY again.

The film relies a lot on metaphors and us, the viewer, being able to put together some moments in the film that really don’t make much obvious sense. For example, one of the main characters buys a house that is constantly on fire. The fire is contained, but the house is filled with smoke. This character lives her whole life in this building. Now you can either view this as pretentious nonsense, or, as a commentary on how we accept things in our life, and put ourselves through trauma that we need not do. How you interpret/view these moments will probably influence your opinion on the film; it’s either boring or brilliant.

I’m still yet to make up my mind on SN-Y. There are moments that I love, but there were more times where I was looking at my watch waiting for it to finish. I wouldn’t dismiss it, but I also wouldn’t recommend it. So, until a second viewing, I’m going to say it’s a little too abstract for my liking.

Marks out of ten – Five

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