XCN Film club: The Woman in Black
Since I was young horror films have always fascinated me in a big way, this started with any film containing zombies and moved swiftly through the genre until I got to the core staple of horror. Ghost stories. I love how simple a ghost story can be, with little to no special effects and yet stick with you, in the back of your mind, making you hate to be alone for days after viewing.
As time has passed horror movies have all gone down the path of the archetypal slasher flick, very gory and visual but as I have found (especially lately) this combination isn’t even guaranteed to be scary, the random attacker wielding a knife (or chainsaw) doesn’t give you the fright that stays right in the back of your mind, only a well written ghost story can have that effect on my mind it seems.
Thankfully the latter is exactly the type of thrill/scare ride that you’re in for with The woman in black.
The story centres around a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps, played by Daniel Radcliffe, and his struggle to juggle his life whilst dealing with the death of his young wife during childbirth. Already in the bad books with his firm, Kipps is sent to obtain some paperwork from a rather large foreboding manor named Eel marsh house, which once belonged to the Drablow family. A simple task which from this point twists and turns into a tale of a small english town with dark secrets which all begin and end with the mystery surrounding Eeel marsh house along with its tales of the shrouded lady sometimes seen peering from the window…
The first thing that struck me about the film was obviously the casting of Daniel Radcliffe in the main role, I felt that maybe his acting prowess wouldn’t be up to scratch in the adult arena or that his infamy as Harry Potter would detract from the film, however I was only half right. I personally thought Radcliffe did a brilliant job portraying Arthur Kipps in the swing of losing his mind and I was fully immersed, but don’t take me wrong, it did take a little while to get over the Harry Potter elephant sitting in the room before I could be drawn in. If you’re an avid Harry Potter fan I think you may find it a little hard to resist shouting “use your wand Harry” (I know I nearly did). If you can ignore the Potter effect, and ignore Radcliffe’s previous efforts then you’re definitely in for a treat. The film is quite a slow burner, with a lot of time given to set the mood in each scene, but in my mind this is a good thing. The film has time to slowly unfurl the story and build the tension constantly, with the big scares in actual fact only being sprinkled delicately throughout as to not overload us or desensitise us and really giving impact to those jump-out-of-your-seat moments.
As would be expected The Woman in Black has a great cast of actors, giving the village scenes a brilliant sense of desperation, and adding some golden moments to the story, aided by a very overlooked but brilliant soundtrack constructed by Marco Beltrami (as with the film, the soundtrack can feel sparse but really heavy laden with dread and suspense)
The woman in black may be a 12A but with its excellent use of empty spaces and shadow play, it really builds a feeling of dread until the very last moment when your released with a shock which for me sums up the film, there may not be a constant slew of visual horror relied upon to scare you, but the tension created throughout creates a constant fright which will stick with you (trust me, you’ll be avoiding getting too close to window panes and children’s play rooms for a long time)
So overall The woman in black to my mind is an excellent horror story, some may say it’s old-fashioned storytelling to a fault, but they’re missing a very well crafted tale (as opposed to a pointless gore fest) with a great performance from Radcliffe and some excellent shock moments, my only gripe really is the time it takes adjusting to Radcliffe as Kipps and not Potter.
A solid 4 out of 5 and at 480 MS points to rent, 590 for the HD touch on the Zune Marketplace, it’s worth a watch (through your fingers)
Xboxer Score: 4/5