<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by James Watkins. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer.
Adapted from a book and a play, starring Harry Potter and a host of tried and tested terror tactics, The Woman In Black fails to deliver anything new.
I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter films but it’s interesting to see how a child actor without any formal acting education turns out in his first real film as an adult. Daniel Radcliffe with a son of his own in this one. But he looks more like an older cousin than a daddy. Even when he’s being taken to task at the law firm he’s working in, his boss looks more like a stern father chastising his pale-faced son. Maybe it’s his face, maybe it’s his meagre stature, though it isn’t his fault, it just doesn’t lend itself to any credibility.
Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), struggling single father after his wife dies in child labour, must get over the loss of his beloved, earn a living at his law firm where they send him off to deal with a property called Eel Marsh House and the formalities of the owner’s will. But there’s a lot more going on in the creepy town of Crythin Gifford, what with townsfolk refusing to cross the causeway to old Alice Drablow’s last home for fear of some untold horrors befalling their children.
Ciaran Hinds plays Mr Daily, a kindly native of the town whose own son mysteriously died there. His wife played by Janet McTeer believes that supernatural forces are at work and that her son speaks through her to warn them the next time the mysterious Woman In Black decides to strike. And Kipps must, for some strange reason, work on all the ‘papers’ at the eerie house. Whole scenes are devoted to him, fumbling about, hearing weird noises, seeing strange white-faced children, uncovering blood scrawls on walls, watching rocking chairs go back and forth by themselves and the usual set of jump-out-of-your-seat gimmickry. Some of it is chilling due to some good sound design and cleverly creepy wind up toys sourced by the prop guy.
But what’s the biggest failing here? It is Daniel Radcliffe probably miscast, most surely lacking in facial expressions (and no Mr director, facial stubble does not count for maturity). That constant look of ‘oh my good, what am I to do’ that we’re so familiar with. Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer do bring maturity and stable pillars to this film though. At the end of the day, The Woman In Black is the same old stuff really, with a disturbingly (and deliberately) contrived ending and very little by way of original scares.