What an amazing thing, to go into a theater in 2012 and see an old-fashioned haunted house/ghost story movie. That, of course, is exactly what James Watkins’ The Woman in Black promised. That it delivered this, devoid of any modern frippery, is amazing. The Woman in Black is a well-scripted, well-acted (yes, Daniel Radcliffe is very good in the lead, while Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer add to the tone) basic excursion into the realm of the ghost story. That means that the film works mostly on the basis of a spooky premise and a creepy atmosphere that creates a sense of dread punctuated, of course, by well-timed shock-effect scares. Some will complain that this is nothing more than making the audience jump by sudden loud noises and things entering the scene when you don’t expect them. Well, yes, because that’s how the genre works, but it only works if the film successfully builds the tension to those “boo!” moments and knows just when to use them. The Woman in Black does. The story is horror-movie basic: young attorney Radcliffe is sent to an isolated, old, and dark house to settle an estate. The locals, with what turns out be good reason, don’t want him there and are constantly trying to parcel him off to London. Naturally, he doesn’t go — otherwise there’d be no movie — and, after a series of disasters and revelations, the grim secret of the house and the community comes to light. I really want to say no more about the plot, because it’s the sort of thing better experienced than read about. Those who appreciate their horror on the atmospheric, chilly side will appreciate the film’s artistry.
Director: James Watkins
Writer: Susan Hill
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, David Burke, Shaun Dooley, Alisa Khazanova, Sidney Johnston, Mary Stockley, Alexia Osborne and Aoife Doherty