Review: The Woman in Black (Watkins, 2012)

Woman in Black is the much-anticipated second film from the British director James Watkins after the equally-as-eerie ‘Eden Lake’ was released in 2008. Daniel Radcliffe attempts his first adult role, after eleven years in robes he has transformed into the tortured London Lawyer Arthur Kipps. Once the initial shock of a widowed Harry Potter who is suddenly a single father with rather unconvincing facial hair, Radcliffe proceeds to deliver an altogether passable performance and the image of a fourteen year boy brandishing a wand begins to fade.

An irrefutably morose character, Kipp’s angelic four year old son Joseph (played by Misha Handley) encapsulates the tone of their damaged relationship through a caricature with a colossal frown and an angel in heaven. If an uplifting tale full of enlightenment and promise, where good defeats evil is what you crave then this is not the film for you. The disturbing story full of spirits, secrets and shadowing shapes is sure to deliver traditional suspense.

Opening the film with the supposed suicide of three young girls, the ominous score begins to resonate around an already silent cinema in which a general feeling hits; this film should not be a 12A. Set in the (fictional) remote British town of Crithyn Giffard, awash with death, fear hangs over the town mirroring the thick fog covering the marshes. Arthur Kipps looks to settle the estates of the late Alice Drablow. Kipps only ally in the town suffocating in lies and suspicion is Samuel Daily, effortlessly delivered by Ciarian Hinds. A wealthy and rational man, utterly unconvinced by the rumors rife in the local village provides a more grounded associate, despite his mentally unhinged wife Elizabeth (rather amusingly played by Janet McTeer).

The standard ghost story favorite; gothic Victorian architecture, surrounded by graves, cut off from society and suffocating in inexplicably opaque mist, the aptly named Eel Marsh house provides suitably cliché surroundings for a good old fashioned ghost story. With stairs creaking and chairs rocking ‘The Woman in Black’ delivers a chilling yet predictable plot as opposed to the mentally unsettling thriller originally written by Susan Hill in 1983, it offers a satisfyingly seat grabbing suspense. The unsettling wind up dolls with glassy stares, skulking spirits and perfectly placed pauses are sure to have your heart racing.

The jury is still out whether Potter, sorry Radcliffe, will ever be able to leave his wizarding days behind, the lack of demanding dialogue from a character that is ultimately sustained through subtly placed silences and anguished looks leaves the viewer satisfied, yet unconvinced that the lightning bolt scar has well and truly healed.

Platform rating: 7/10


Rosie Prior