As much as everyone says comedy is subjective, so to is the horror genre. Everyone has their guilty pleasures and just can’t help themselves. For better and worse, I sit through tons of horror movies every year, hoping that some will be great (Insidious), while most wind up being atrocious (The Devil Inside). Somewhere in the middle is where one’s guilty pleasures would probably fall, where you know it’s not a great movie, but it sure was effective on you. This week’s case in point, Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter venture: The Woman in Black.
Coming across as trying to be kindred spirit to films like The Others or even Skeleton Key, the film opens with the suicide of three little girls. Next, we are introduced to young solicitor Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe). Arthur has just being sent to look after the estate of recently deceased Mrs. Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) in a remote village with a pesky ghost problem of their own. Mrs. Drablow’s sister Jennet (Liz White) is making the rounds about town in the afterlife, making the townsfolk’s children off themselves. All she wants is revenge for the death of her own son causing her to take her own life, while Arthur is on the case to find out the truth behind the Drablow estate.
Director James Watkins (Eden Lake), makes great use of cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones and Marco Beltrami lets loose another creepy score. Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) adapts author Susan Hill’s novel with all the bells and whistles of a fun house. There may be lots of things popping out of nowhere, but hey, they’re ghosts, it’s what they do. The film does venture into trying to take things to a new level for PG-13, mainly one scene involving one of Jennet’s latest victims. While Hill’s novel has also been in production as a stage play for awhile now, it was also a TV movie back in 1988. Being a UK production makes me wonder if the tale has always been a favorite of Goldman’s.
The film’s marketing team could make bank on making the creepy toys in the film available for purchase. While Arthur just wants Jennet to find release by reuniting with her dead son, the ending seems full of climaxes going unfulfilled leaving the movie with a cinematic case of blue balls. And another movie (Drag Me to Hell) managed to pull off the same style of ending far better. I can’t help but feel like Watkins feels the same way but is hindered by the assuredly studio demanded rating. What kind of film would star Daniel Radcliffe that his core audience would have to sneak into? As I said before, what works for some, doesn’t work for others, and for me The Woman in Black was a nice throwback to the Hammer Films of yore as they continue to try making a comeback.
Photos courtesy CBS Films