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The Woman in Black (12A) Reviewed

Rachel Winterbottom thinks Daniel Radcliffe does a good job post-Potter

Published on February 13th 2012.


The Woman in Black (12A) Reviewed

IN its heyday, the Hammer House of Horror was famous for bringing the big bads of Gothic monsters to the silver screen.

Alone in the house, Kipps finds dark family secrets buried in the paperwork surrounding the tragic death of Alice Drablow’s son. 

As part of its revival, the House of Horror has released Edwardian era horror The Woman in Black, Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Potter film. Here’s hoping the spectre’s curse is confined to celluloid. 

Young father and widower Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is given one last chance to save his career by the unsympathetic law firm he works for. He is sent to a remote English village to organise the paperwork for the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow, owner of Eel Marsh House.  

Unfortunately the shifty-eyed locals don’t take too kindly to strangers who want to dabble with the cursed property and try to run him out of town.

It’s down to the only superstition-free villager, landowner Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds), to take him in. But, despite a worrying trend for young suicide in the village, the troubled Kipps is determined to finish what he’s been sent there to do, regardless of any curse. 

Eel Marsh House is surrounded by marshland and isolated by the tides, but Kipps swiftly learns that the secluded building hasn’t been completely abandoned by its previous occupants.

Alone in the house, Kipps finds dark family secrets buried in the paperwork surrounding the tragic death of Alice Drablow’s son. Then he catches a glimpse of a woman dressed in black, and the bumps in the night come thick and fast. 

I Preferred A Broomstick - Daniel RadcliffeI Preferred A Broomstick - Daniel Radcliffe

Based on Susan Hill’s novel and having already seen success on stage, the film varies from the original plot but still retains all the trappings of a good old fashioned Victorian ghost story. With a script by Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick Ass) and directed by James Watkins, writer of The Descent sequel and Eden Lake, The Woman in Black is a low key and traditional horror, which at times is darkly humorous. 

Having already starred on stage in the sexually graphic Equus and the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Radcliffe has already proved to theatre audiences that he can move on from the Boy Who Lived.

The Woman in Black marks his film career’s transition into adulthood. Radcliffe is excellent as Kipps, a man already haunted by his own past. His reserved performance supersedes his youthful looks as the grieving Kipps, a man too tormented by life to scare easily, teeters between quiet determination and outright desperation. 

The Woman in Black is superbly eerie from the offset. Following a slow burning opening, the film’s middle section is crammed to the cobweb-strewn rafters with things that go bump in the night, relentlessly urging you towards its genuinely terrifying climax. Regrettably, the final third then disappoints as it never quite achieves the same levels of heart thudding spectacle.   

There are a few niggles. The reliance on horror clichés means that Smoke Machine Guy is still the most coveted job in the Hammer-verse. The villagers were just a mob with pitchforks waiting to happen (but still more of a mild hindrance than a menace). The screeches on the soundtrack occasionally undermined the painstakingly built tension in Goldman’s script. 

Despite those small annoyances, Radcliffe has made his first post-Potter move well with The Woman in Black, a film that, despite its 12A certificate, is definitely not for kids. 

Rating: 7/10

Up All Night - Woman In BlackUp All Night? Woman in black, is she on crack?


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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Absinthe & TurksFebruary 25th 2012.

That picture is surely the wrong Woman in Black? It looks like the one from the ITV version of 1989 played by Hercule Poirot's Miss Lemon. In the Radcliffe version she is played by Liz White, the policewoman in Life on Mars.

A. CokeFebruary 25th 2012.

Of course Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps would not have been taken seriously in real life. Supposedly a respectable lawyer he goes hatless thoughout the film!

Jacky WestobyFebruary 27th 2012.

I think I saw a different film to the reviewer, I thought it was absolute pants!! A brilliant novel, stage play and tv version reduced to a childish, "lets make all the kids watching this jump" hammer-horror; crazy villagers style over-blown piece of rubbish. Radcliffe can't act, and doesn't have to in this ridiculous waste of time.I had no idea it was only a certificate 12 when I paid my ticket money; I wouldn't have bothered if I'd known. Surrounded by screaming teenagers who yelled whenever the screen went dark-note to self, never go to a certificate 12 in half term week again!!- i couldn't wait for this garbage to finish. Such a shame when the source material is so classy.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 27th 2012.

Jacky, I loved it as a ghost-train ride of shock and jump. Great dark fun. Moody, atmospheric and amusing.

AnonymousFebruary 27th 2012.

I thought it was refreshing to have a horror relying on tension and suprise to shock rather than blood and gore.

LaToya BollingerApril 18th 2013.

One of the greatest Horror movies to date. Daniel Radcliffe isn't really given a role that he can prove his acting abilities with, but he still plays the character perfectly. Anyone believing him to be a "bad" actor clearly doesn't know what the term of such means. Harry Potter should have won every award available to man kind, due to its ability to capture audiences and keep them their for so many years. He may not be the boy who lived anymore too everyone else, but he will always be the boy who lived too me. I agree with the ANON that wrote it's refreshing to have a horror relying on tension and su(r)prise to shock rather than blood and gore. Movies today rely STRICTLY on Blood and Gore and it's very unoriginal, and definitely nothing to be proud of. There are other ways to scare the audience, and this movie was a wonderful example of that.

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