Let me tell you that the only thing that could have made me purchase a ticket, walk into the theatre and sit through almost 90 minutes of a ridiculous fright fest willingly is the idea that I would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t watch Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter adult role on a big screen. Other than that, I will never ever enter a cinema willingly and watch a horror movie, let alone admire and like it.
As it stands, though, The Woman In Black is one of the finest horror films made in recent films. Despite thoroughly hating the genre (although not as much as I loathe slasher films), I have seen a few horror movies (mostly due to familial obligations), I think The Woman In Black does what many Western (read: non-Asian) horror films usually fail to do: scare the knickers off you and make you scream properly.
But first let’s address the film’s main star who, until a year ago, was doing wizarding duties at Hogwarts and collecting money for Warner Bros. at the box office in one of the most successful film franchises in the world. That Daniel Radcliffe is a good actor is not a surprise. He’s probably not as naturally talented as some of his co-stars in Potter but clearly he has honed his skills over the years that he is now so well trained in his craft that you can’t help but admire the way he works. Radcliffe’s dedication is palpable in everything he does, be it singing, dancing or goofing off at live comedy shows. This young man didn’t only survive the transition from being a child actor to a serious adult actor; he also did it with aplomb. His career choices have been clever and he’s a very clever man himself. So, really, please put your hands together and give young Mr. Radcliffe a round of applause.
If you watch this movie, though, you should do more than just clap your hands in admiration for his works. You should be standing on your feet while you do that as well. Because thanks to that dedication and training, Radcliffe has managed to shed entirely Harry’s image off his skin and wear a new one. He owns this Arthur Kipps with a subtle, controlled performance in James Watkins’ version of The Woman In Black. He can stand next to Ciaran Hinds and deliver a class act performance that had no traces whatsoever of the iconic role he played for 10 years of his life. At some points, I even thought he was channeling Gary Oldman. As in, “Boy, I believe Gary Oldman’s mastery has finally spilled over to you from all those years acting next to him.”
Kipps’ consistent expression of doom and gloom he kept on his face throughout the film is so convincing that my heart went out to him the whole time. He was convincing as a young father who lost his wife, who cared about his son and who just wanted to do right by him. It was intense seeing him this way and at the end of the movie, I fell in love all over again for the Boy Who Lived To Confront Ghosts In Nurseries.
Speaking of ghosts in nurseries, this film can only be described as creepy. And creepier. And creepiest. Dear Lord, do not let yourself walk into the theatre to watch it unless you have a very strong heart.
I don’t know where to begin explaining the creepiness. The most annoying scene for me was the rocking chair in the nursery scene. The sound effects, the lighting, and the camera angles were effectively placed but there was simply no time to admire all of that because you had to close your eyes quickly because you know The Woman would appear. You were probably ready for it but you weren’t so you were still shocked when she appeared and screamed your heart out. Or, at least you would have if you were me. And then a hallway scene where the light from the candles one by one while the camera came closer and closer to you… I didn’t even bother opening my eyes to see what happened next. Although, judging from the horrified shrieks around the theater, I could safely say I wouldn’t regret not seeing yet another appearance from The Woman.
I’m not even going to tell you how utterly sick it was to see Kipps meet Mud Boy and later retrieve said Mud Boy’s body from, well, the mud. I will leave it there because it was so sickeningly frightening and I don’t want to remember it anymore.
For a film with simple haunted mansion story, adapted for the screen by Kick-Assscribe Jane Goldman fro Susan Hill’s novel, The Woman In Black brought fear into our minds much more effectively than even one of the most horrifying horror films of recent times, Insidious. The writing itself is good but not spectacular. Goldman’s story made sense but it was mostly linear. It makes for a very accessible story but it could’ve been very boring if it weren’t for Watkins’ solid filmmaking techniques.
Ultimately, it is thanks to the atmosphere Watkins created for Kipps’ whole world. The design for each set, especially Eel Marsh House, is very well done – beautiful and intricate in a macabre way and this enhances the horror of the story. Seen on her own, outside the appropriate setting of the story, The Woman In Black ghost might not look as scary as, for example, that demon from Constantine. It’s just make-up and costume. But thanks to the influence of the set, with the lighting, the camera and the design, she becomes the most formidable ghost you’ve ever seen on screen.
The Woman In Black is as far as it could possibly get from the Paranormal Activitymovies. It’s probably not as artistic as anything Lars Von Trier could have possibly imagined and captured on his films. Some people would even argue it’s not even as terrifying as Asian horror films. But it is scary and it does what a horror movie is supposed to do. Added with solid filmmaking and high quality acting, The Woman In Black has also become memorable and one that viewers will remember as being the One That Brought Out The Screams in the cinema.