The Woman in Black Reviews
Director James Watkins allows the stories mounting sense of mystery settle bleakly into our psyche, ominously desperate the spine-tingling tale disturbs viewers into an apprehensively unsettled mood, recoiling at the slightest unexpected motion. From its isolated landscape, haunted architecture, paralyzing soundtrack, bizarre set pieces, intimate characterizations and confronting theme, the forebodingly tense sense of expectancy is genuinely palpable.
Unable to maintain his duties by still grieving for his wife whom died during childbirth four years past, London solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is faced with the threat of losing his job. Forced to leave behind his observant little boy Joseph (Micha Hendley), Kipps returns to work by traveling to the remote village of Crythin Gifford in the Yorkshire countryside to sort the affairs of the recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House.
Upon arrival, the ever grey, muddy and miserable marshlands reveal they are aptly named; but his reception by the local that is truly chilling. The branded outsider is reluctantly given an attic room at the town inn for only one night and come morning the townspeople's determination to run him out of town is extreme.
Kipp bribes his way to the decrepit mansion and begins the obviously laborious task of organizing the deceased paperwork; but something looms. Leaves rustle, cold winds howl and peculiar noises hinder his progress, arousing suspicions of something unnatural.
Having met on the train into town, Kipp is invited to sup with the wealthy Samuel Daily (Ciaran Hinds) and his disturbed wife (Janet McTeer). After an uncontrollable outburst from his wife, the skeptical Daily explains the local's apprehension.
Years prior, the owners of the mansion lost their young son in an accident on the marsh and never found his body; heralding the beginning of a rash of bizarre occurrences. If a shadowy apparition of a shrouded woman in black is seen soon after a local child will be found dead in dark circumstances.
Adding credence to legend, Kipp had seen but excused this abnormality twice upon his visit so far resulting in two deaths. Realising the shocking dilemma that Joseph and his nanny is due to arrive the following day, Kipp must find a way to placate the vengeful looming cadaver and spare his son.
Highlighting the gaping chasm between international horror fare, without the American's overwhelming desire to repulse viewers with obscene gore, the English gracefully shave strips of goose-prickled flesh and slither into viewers sub-conscious fears subtlety.
Radcliff's expressive ashen features simply pour with grief; Hinds gently commands authority while McTeer balances precariously on the edge of madness. But the real star, is the haunted house.
A masterpiece of production design; the blocked by the rising tide causeway isolates the crumbling and forlorn Victorian mansion. Cob-webs shroud the jumbled possessions while the decrepit nursery filled with bizarre musical antique toys is detailed to a flaw. Three glazed wise monkeys hear, see and speak no evil but are certainly a front for it.
Attempting to cast of the shackles of being one of the most iconic single-role child stars; the now 22 year old Ratcliff's cinematic choices are crucial in helping him carve an independent adult career. The Woman in Black is his first role since the Harry Potter's period/fantasy franchise concluded and already the prospect of typecasting is becoming all too apparent.
To date (and including his next two announced projects), the still school-boy faced headliner has never taken a role set in a present day story. Although his dramatic style is perfect for this path, if he wishes to stand the test of time and stay internationally favored, an expanse of his repertoire is desperately needed.
The Verdict: Simple, effective and stimulating in all the right ways, sometimes a well dramatized thriller can cut closer to the wick and draw more blood than a knife slashing horror.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 25/05/2012