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The Woman in Black
Genre Horror
 
Review:

Daniel Radcliffe stars in The Woman in Black, his follow-up to the beloved Harry Potter series, which shaped his career. Now the young British actor has the challenge of overcoming Harry Potter in the same way that Sean Connery had to shake his James Bond persona. To start the disassociation, Radcliffe has chosen The Woman in Black, an adaptation of Susan Hill's popular horror novel, written by Jane Goldman and envisioned by Eden Lake writer-director James Watkins.

The Woman in Black is an old-fashioned ghost story about a young lawyer who ventures into a small town on business, where the locals are terrorised by the spirit of a woman intent on exacting revenge, one child at a time. This dark horror thriller is unsettling, chilling and designed to keep you off-balance to heighten the taunt and scare you on your journey with Arthur Kipps, who could very well be Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow.

While a ghostly governess, undead children and a haunted mansion echo The Innocents, The Others and more recently The Awakening, the formula never seems to tire, at least not in James Watkins's new take. The director has crafted an intricate, creepy and mysterious atmosphere in which to toy with his audience. Keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, involves playing up the uncertainty, showing just enough to get the imagination going.

Daniel Radcliffe carries the film, but the role of lawyer and widowed father would have better suited someone slightly older. Radcliffe is no stranger to the realm of shadows and for the most part he succeeds in The Woman in Black. He just seems a little out of his depth alongside the likes of supporting actors Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer, and not just because of their height.

The film-makers have chosen to keep the special effects down to a minimum, opting for classic Nosferatu style horror devices like dim lighting, shadows and sound to create suspense. There's a familiarity at the heart of The Woman in Black and there are moments where you think you've seen it before. These moments make way for refreshing horror sequences that rely on atmosphere rather than gore and function without reams of dialogue.

The UK film locations are perfectly enchanting and have been carefully selected and manicured to create a sense of desolation in the landscapes with claustrophobia in the interiors. The old house has the typical trappings of a haunted mansion: cobwebs, locked doors, creaky floorboards, creepy ornaments, cracked paintings and swathed in darkness. While each doll, trinket and wind-up toy has been chosen for its sinister edge, it does sometimes feel kitsch and less would have been more.

The Woman in Black is a solid genre entry, on par with Insidious for scares and as beautifully filmed as The Awakening with themes reminiscent of classic horror like Sleepy Hollow and The Innocents. As far as horror-thrillers go, The Woman in Black is effective, engaging her audience with an entertaining Gothic ghost story while immersing us in a dark, unsettling and nightmarish environment.

The bottom line: Chilling

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