The Woman in Black – 2012

Directed by James Watkins
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White
Written by  Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill

So there’s this lady, you see, she’s wearing black.  And wherever she goes kids die.  Insert Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a really young-looking father of a younger boy.  Arthur’s boy thinks his dad is sad.  Since he lost his wife, and the boy’s mother, at child birth, this is a good bet.  Kipps is a company man, though, and the company wants him to go out to a town to settle some business on a will.

My friend, Mike, once described for me what it felt like for him to live in the town of Bellevue, Washington. While not even close to being white trash, he felt a bit different from the predominantly conservative base that occupied that town.

“Stranger,” he spoke, as the chorus of the townsfolk, “Take your stranger ways out of town.”

The inhabitants of Crythin Gifford see Radcliffe as every bit the unwanted stranger that the people of Bellevue see Mike.  Whenever someone has anything to do with the  Eel Marsh House, some bad stuff happens to the kids of the town.  I will give you 3 guesses on whose house our young Mr. Kipps has come to settle the affairs.  What? You only need one?  Oh, well.

The Woman in Black is not as much a scary movie as a chore to figure out which handle will rattle next, which chair will move, which shadow will come to life.  It is one thing to time these things out and parse them into each component of the tale.  It’s quite another to be able to set your watch to them.  The Woman in Black, herself is actually more annoying than threatening.  She’s pissed.  We all get that.  Why take it out on people who had nothing to do with her predicament?  Well, there wouldn’t be a movie if not.  In watching her scowl and scream throughout, one can find it easy to compare her to M. Emmett Walsh from The Jerk, who picked Steve Martin’s Navin out of a phone book to pounce on.

Radcliffe is a very likable guy.  I want him to succeed.  Right now, though, his range is grimacing, wincing and…that’s about it.  The filmmakers did themselves no favors by having his kid point out that all he did was frown early on.  The rest of the film did nothing to change this.  It might be good for him to get out of the type of films that require special effects.  Once he carves out a niche for himself in another area, he can come back with a few more tools in his belt.

For the under-initiated in the world of spooky films, this movie will give you more than one chilling moment.  Once you’ve had a chance to see how it should really be done, such as Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark and George C. Scott’s The Changeling, you will see that this movie is about ten forced shrieks too many to have a lasting impression.

(*** out of *****)

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