Director: James Watkins
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White
I have finally plucked up the courage to go and see The Woman in Black which everyone has been calling one of the creepiest films in a long time. Now I am not a big fan of horror films: for me they tend to be gratuitously gory or have an array of actors that would make an episode of Eastenders look like Chekov. However, after all of the hype and people claiming how intense it was seeing this film, I had high hopes it would leave a mark on me that I would remember, a possibly change my perception of horror films. So here we go. Are you sitting comfortably?
Now The Woman in Black is the story of Arthur Kipps, a solicitor from London played by Harry potter – I mean Daniel Radcliffe – who is sent to look after the property of Alice Drablow following her death. Now while he is staying in the village local to the property, there are several rumours and suspicions regarding the house, with Kipps being made unwelcome by the villagers who advise him not to enter the house for any reason. In cliché horror movie style the hero, or central character, is told the most valuable line in horror movie history: ‘I wouldn’t go in there if I was you’. But what do you know, against all the advice and guidance from the locals Kipps ignores this and continues with his work - which is good because otherwise this film would have been very short! So from here on in, the film plays out as you would expect: Kipps stays at the house, experiences some creepy goings-on and then he meets the Woman in Black.
The film is a collection of jump-scares, creative camera work and periods of long and drawn out tension. Director James Watkins has incorporated some extraordinary shots into this film, each potentially being the point of view of the woman in black or any other possible spirits, adding to the intensity levels. This film is slow at the beginning, but has some very shaky moments later on that range from creepy shots of a blurred reflection right up to throwing something straight in your face that makes you want to cry. There is a period when the intensity does not stop, and I am glad at some moments I had a spare pair of underwear (I didn’t obviously – seriously!). This film is without a doubt a mental workout: In the way Inception gives you mind a workout through its density and complexness, The Woman in Black really over excites your brain, making you anticipate and see things that aren’t there, then when you think you are safe it throws a jump-scare right smack in your face. There are some moments in the film that just burn in your mind and sounds that ring in your ears for minutes after you have seen them. As a film it never lets you feel relaxed or safe for a minute, which I suppose is the purpose of horror films.
Therefore, despite my dislike for the genre, I can safely say that this is one of the best horror films I have seen for many years. It does not rely upon unnecessary gore, nor does it have poor acting. Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the role - providing you can forget his role in Harry Potter. It is obvious that Radcliffe is aiming to establish himself as an even better actor than we have seen him do outside the Harry Potter universe so far, and judging by his recent performances, including this film, he still has a substantial career ahead of him. James Watkin’s style of filmmaking, and the manner in which he sucks his audiences in and makes them a part of the experience, is brilliant, providing some of the tensest moments I have seen on screen. He does not provide any unnecessary action, violence or explanation that slows or complicates a film, instead the film both subtle and overt in its delivery. They often say that ‘less is more’, well this is most certainly the case with The Woman in Black. Although it may not have rekindled my opinion of the horror genre, the film is without a doubt one of the better films I have seen in the last six months.