Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman In Black

Blurb: Fans of classically structured haunted house/ghost stories will relish the skillfully unnerving chain of events in The Woman in Black, whether or not they're fans of Harry Potter. The good new is that Daniel Radcliffe leaves Harry behind for good in his first post-Potter role. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor tasked with resolving the affairs of a recently deceased woman and her brooding estate in the gloom of the remote Victorian England-era village of Crythin Gifford. The mood is melancholic all around, starting with Kipps himself, who lost his wife to childbirth a few years earlier. His employer has had just about enough of his moping about and gives him the assignment as a last resort to save his job. When he arrives in the small village, the icy response he receives does not bode well for successful completion of his mission. All the townspeople want him gone, and possibly for good reason. Many of their children have died mysteriously gruesome deaths that they blame on the titular black-clad woman whose own child was tragically sucked to his death in the muck surrounding her seaside mansion. This new stranger who wants to unearth the deadly secrets trapped in the decrepit old house is a threat they cannot abide, and sure enough the deaths keep on coming as he delves deeper into the dark recesses of the house and the history of its ghostly occupant. There are scares aplenty in The Woman in Black, and they come from a genuineness that relies on creep-outs rather than gross-outs. Faces in windows, apparitions barely there, slow-building moodiness that suddenly erupts into a silent scream (or sometimes not so silent) make for an extremely effective and often terribly unnerving atmosphere of dread. The movie comes with several impressive pedigrees as well. It's based on a popular novel published in the early '80s, which was also adapted into a long-running hit play. The movie additionally resurrects the Hammer Films brand, an esteemed British production company that churned out moody and distinctive horror films and exploitive psycho-thrillers for decades in the mid 20th century. Indeed, the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee seems to lurk around every dusty, cobwebbed corner in The Woman in Black, right behind the slamming doors and only just glimpsed in the flickering candlelight. Radcliffe is perfect for the role of a heartbroken man whose rationality is stretched to the point of no return by the things he may or may not be seeing. Several strong supporting performances add to the gravitas, especially CiarĂ¡n Hinds as a kindred soul and father figure to Kipps, and perhaps the only other rational man in Crythin Gifford.

Review: This is a classic gothic style film. If Scooby Doo were around he would have been saying, "Spooky, spooky, spooky." from the minute he arrives in a small village. Daniel Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps is a perfect tortured soul. His wife died in childbirth leaving him with his newborn son. The boy playing his son is so cute it is disgusting, assuming you can tear your eyes from Radcliffe, who no longer looks like Harry Potter. Nope Daniel is shockingly good-looking these days, and it is hard not stare at those clear blue eyes, because the camera seems to spend a lot of time on his face.

One thing I noticed about this film, it spends more time with visual than with dialogue.  Radcliffe's best moments are when he's not speaking, just when he's hunting down strange sounds at the mansion.  The Woman is Black is really creepy. Not scary or gory like most horror/thrillers, just creepy. Lots of foggy marshland, dark hallways, things going bump in the night, that sort of spooky.

The film does a good of illustrating what happened to the woman, and how she came to be haunting the mansion, but most will have some questions as to why she's luring the local children to their deaths. I guess to figure that out I'll have to read the book. This is one of the first times when I've opted to see the film first.

I have to commend Marco Beltrami for his score, which really added to the creepiness of the film. You knew when something spooky was going to happen, and the music was such a part of this film.

This is the kind of scary movie that I love. The ending will leave you with an expression of OMG and you'll have a new found respect for Daniel, who is more than just Harry Potter!

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