Now that the Harry Potter series is kaput, it’ll be interesting to see where Daniel Radcliffe’s movie career goes.
For his first film since retiring his wand, Radcliffe stars in an Edwardian era horror story - produced by Hammer Films, no less. It’s not a bad choice for the young actor. It’s preferable to a random rom com or generic techno thriller I suppose, but, try as it might to genuinely scare, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is only intermittently startling.
Radcliffe portrays a widowed lawyer who is handling a recently deceased woman’s estate located just outside a small village where there’s been a rash of child killings. A local landowner, Ciarán Hinds, befriends Radcliffe and warns him about staying overnight in the creepy mansion, but, of course, Radcliffe doesn’t listen.
Things more than go bump in the night, they work overtime to terrorize Radcliffe around every dark corner. That is, the ghost of the title, who keeps popping up in an absurd quick-cut manner, who is doing all the terrorizing, coming close to offing Radcliffe several times.
At one point, a woman at the screening I attended yelled “why don’t you just leave?!!?” Now normally I dislike when folks scream at the screen at the movies, but she did say what I (and many other folks in the audience since many people laughed) was thinking exactly. When Radcliffe first realizes that there is a supernatural force at work, and that it’s majorly screwing with him, he really should’ve gotten the hell out of there.
Oh yeah, it’s, of course, a dark and stormy night so the road is flooded as the estate is cut off from the mainland.
Based on a 1983 novel by Susan Hill (which had been previously adapted for film by Herbert Wise in 1989), this movie is filled with the kind of jolts that make you feel stupid for being momentarily startled by.
A lot of the cuts, like one to the black-wearing woman screaming through a window pane, feel really cheap. Once I got into the rhythm of the movie, I could sense a sudden jolt coming once I notice the camera start to settle into a shot.
A few times into the hectic second half when a jolt didn’t happen I was disappointed.
Radcliffe’s uncovering of the clues (old letters, words written in blood on walls, etc.) that explain what’s behind it all aren’t sufficiently thrilling either. It’s admirable the intense effort Radcliffe brings here, but his character has no depth beyond bland chivalry.
Still, Radcliffe's invested performance saves the movie from being just one "boo!" after another. But just barely.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK does have a great grainy gothic look, but that, along with Radcliffe’s capable carrying of the film, are the only things good here to report.