The Woman In Black
Daniel Radcliffe attempts to release himself from his typecast spell in this first acting outing since his graduation from Hogwarts. Playing the role of Arthur Kipps, a young widower and solicitor in early 20th century England, he is sent to a remote town to attend to the affairs of a late widow. Arriving there during a dark and stormy night, his cold welcome from the innkeeper is the first of many peculiar interactions with the townsfolk. Mr. Bentley (Roger Allam) is the only exception. A seemingly kindhearted and wealthy man, he offers Arthur a room in his home along with regular rides to the remote estate.
Located at the end of a causeway, the dilapidated mansion is iconic horror movie material. Cut off from civilization during each high tide, the lawyer needs to plan his trips carefully. However the flooding road soon becomes the least of his concerns. As he gathers papers stashed in every nook and cranny of the huge house he begins to sense he may not be alone. With a seemingly insatiable curiosity, he begins spending most of his two-day visit scouring dingy bedrooms and hallways with the hopes of finding the source of the many noises.
Arthur and Mr. Bentley also share a commonality in that both have recently lost a loved one. Yet they have different feelings regarding the afterlife. While Arthur believes his wife’s presence is still nearby, Mr. Bentley doesn’t subscribe to what he refers to as superstitions. When Arthur begins relating the strange happenings in the vacant house, his older friend advises that he not spend his time “chasing shadows.” Eventually Arthur’s experiences lead to the revelation of an even bigger mystery and the answer to what is literally haunting the town.
The first major film release in decades from UK’s Hammer Films, it is fitting The Woman In Black is a perfect archetype of the studio’s preferred genre. Hammer wrote the book on “made you jump” movies during its heydays in the 1950s and this production unabashedly assaults its audience with squeaks, creaks and fleeting scary images. To its credit the film blends these well-trodden techniques with astounding art direction (the detailed sets are decorated and distressed with precision), intriguing sound effects (enhanced by new technologies) and nice pacing.
Parents should expect some blood, depictions of corpses and portrayals of suicide. The latter include a hanging, a child who sets herself on fire and three children who jump from a high window. These scenes will likely be disturbing to young audiences, yet this isn’t a “slasher” film. Instead the script works to generate fear on a psychological level—and does so reasonably well. In addition, there are only a few mild profanities and no sexual content.
Obviously the theme does deal with the afterlife and our interpretation of it, which may lead to a discussion of personal beliefs. Considering it doesn’t go overboard with explicit images The Woman In Black may be a possible choice for older teens seeking a scare.