Film Review: The Woman in Black


Daniel Radcliffe finally takes a step away from the ‘Harry Potter’ series, and takes on a traditional Hammer horror movie of a classic scare-fest of a tale. Having been released for over a month, and only recently being displaced from the top of the UK box-office, the film has done much better than expected, defying even the most optimistic predictions, taking in almost 10 times what it cost to make, a lowly £13m. Obviously the benefits of having a star whose last film grossed $1 billion are there, but the film has spread well through word of mouth, despite some mixed reviews (the overall IMDB score only a 6.8). I gave it a go, despite not being overly keen on horror films, and here is what I thought…

The Woman in Black’, is MADE for the cinema. The communal fright-fest that occurs is more ‘enjoyable’, if that doesn’t sound too strange, in complete darkness, as everyone screams and jumps together as one. ‘Woman’, is full of shocks and jumps. Directed by horror aficionado James Watkins means that a man who loves horror is in sole charge, and that much is obvious throughout. Sure the story is slightly second-rate, and the traditional flaws of the horror genre (‘”WHY IS HE STAYING OVER FOR THE NIGHT IN A HAUNTED HOUSE?!”‘) are there, but it provides consistent shocks, and delivers great performances from Radcliffe, proving he is much more than Potter, and Ciaran Hinds supporting.

I’ve never been massively fond of Radcliffe, I liked the ‘Harry Potter’ series, but thought performances from the adult actors helped make up for the raw talent of the main three cast members. However, multi-millionaire Radcliffe has his pick of the projects-he doesn’t even have to work again if he chooses!- but chose to help support the British based company Hammer Film, with ‘The Woman in Black’, its fifth film production since the revival of the studio back in 2008 and by far its most successful. At first, it was clear to see the audience found it over-whelming to see Radcliffe with a beard, a child and a widower, giggles were stifled and sighs were heard. As the film progressed though, you get more into the film, and these previous concerns melt away, as Radcliffe dominates the film, with poor decision making, and a strong screen presence.

I felt for a horror film, it managed to tease its audience well, with jump-scares, that, on the whole, were quite cheap. For instance, the first real ‘scare’, was when some mud came out of bath tap. Not scary. But when it emerges with a squelching sound effect and a fast cut to it from darkness, it becomes jumpy. There were a few genuine shocks, but nothing awful. The ending is interesting, wouldn’t quite happen as you’d originally believe, and is a mixed bag and sadness and happiness for our hero.

However, the film’s certificate is a 12A, and I’m not 100% sure if I agree with that or not. It has obviously been placed here to appeal to the ‘Potter’ audience who adored Radcliffe, but the film may just be too much for the younger audience. To achieve this rating over 7 seconds of footage was cut, gore reduced and some scenes made darker, to reduce the scare factor, but still I’d argue this perhaps wasn’t enough. One thing is for sure, the lowered age rating has helped the film to significantly raise its box office figures, and put Hammer Films back on the map.

The film, in all, was pretty good, much better than I previously expected, and an event made for the cinema. Not the best film ever made, but then what would you expect?

4/5


4 thoughts on “Film Review: The Woman in Black

  1. Excellent review – I agree with you wholeheartedly here. It’s probably an entirely moot point me saying this now (I’d be surprised if it’s still showing, with the exception of a few small independent cinemas), but you’re right: ‘The Woman In Black’ was MADE for the big screen. Big screen, surround sound, jumpy people… I can’t imagine it will have quite such a “classic horror” feel back at home.

    That said, I thought it was pretty excellent, and far exceeded my expectations. I’d rather have gone into it having not heard a gazillion soundbites off of Radcliff (saying the same thing: “I wanted to surprise people, I wanted to step away from Harry Potter, I wanted to show I am an ACTOR”), and his acting range here did stretch from ‘a little confused’, all the way up to ‘considerably shocked’. I may mock him, but he did manage to shoulder a film that was effectively all on him. It works for a camp Hammer Horror, but doesn’t he take his roles seriously?!

    Apologies, I have a habit of rambling on. I just wanted to say one more thing – like you, I really was not convinced that they made the right choice with the rating. Judging by the shell-shocked Potter fanatics sitting behind us, they didn’t either.

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