Most helpful positive review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2014
I love gothic horror -- big cobwebbed houses, squawking ravens, rolling mists and mysterious sinister figures that are only glimpsed. "The Woman in Black" has all of those. In fact, this slow, haunting movie loads on the Edwardian ghost-story atmosphere so thick that it practically chokes you -- and while it tends to move slowly, it's beautifully creepy.
Young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) has a life in tatters -- his career is in jeopardy, and he's still in mourning over the loss of his wife four years ago. He's sent to sort through the personal effects of Alice Drablow, who left behind a decayed mansion set in the misty marshes -- and when visiting the house, he sees a veiled woman in black.
The locals are also desperate to get rid of him, even blaming him for the death of a child who drank lye. And soon Kipps begins to understand why, as he unravels the secrets of the Drablow family, and the madwoman who lost her child long ago. With the help of his new friend Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds), Kipps will set out to stop the Woman in Black before she claims what's dearest to him.
I haven't been too impressed with the output of the revitalized Hammer Films company. "The Woman in Black" is probably the best horror movie they've produced -- it feels like a modern version of their shadowy, gothic old movies. It's also not very scary, although director James Watkins tosses in a few jump scares (a raven, a faucet, etc).
Instead, the movie just makes you uneasy. We're constantly aware that SOMETHING is hovering over this town. But for most of the movie, we only see fleeting glimpses of the Woman and her power.
The biggest problem is that the movie moves rather slowly, especially in the first half. But for me, it's compensated for by Watkins inserting some truly unnerving scenes, like a hysterical Mrs. Daily carving into the table. And the gothic atmosphere is so heavy and dark that it practically drips from the screen -- vast mildewed houses, foggy marshes, half-forgotten letters and old photos, and a grey rainy light that seems to wash the colors from the world.
There's not a trace of Harry Potter in Daniel Radcliffe's performance here. His Arthur Kipps is a haunted, broken figure who seems strangely detached from the world around him, except when it comes to endangered children. The only problem is that Radcliffe looks a little young for the role -- whenever Arthur is with his little son, he looks more like the kid's big brother.
"The Woman in Black" is rather slow at times, but the gothic atmosphere and a strong performance from Radcliffe almost make up for that. Well, I'll gladly take it over rotten slasher remakes.