wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
It’s not a good thing if you spend most of the first half of the film thinking, Harry Potter is the protagonist of the film. Well, Harry Potter in a Victorian suit. Anyhow, The Woman in Black will distract you from its poor choices (casting Danielle Radcliffe primarily) with it’s well formulated horror sequences and thrilling visuals. Brace yourself.Read more
The Woman in Black, simplistic as the title is, will haunt you for a couple of minutes after you walk out of the theatre. That’s a sign of a successful horror film, some would say. The film reminds you of the 1960s horror films (the production house Hammer Films have quite the success run), with elaborate production design, familiar horror tropes and a plot that one can’t go wrong with, but in spite of spooking you successfully, there are quite a few bones one can pick. However, if horror is what you went in looking for, unadulterated horror is what you will get.
Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name, The Woman in Black is set in the Victorian era where young attorney Arthur Kipps (Danielle Radclife) has to be sent to North England to sell a (haunted) house that is so cut away from the village, it can only be reached by a long marshy causeway that is covered by the sea during high tide. Arthur’s job is to revisit the house for the original occupant’s missing documents.
Local legend has it that the house is haunted by a woman who mourns the death of her child, something the villagers did nothing to stop. Arthur realizes this could be the reason for the number of children dying in the village. He goes ahead with his job, despite of multiple warnings from the locals. We are introduced to his financial burden in the beginning, and even though that could be reason enough to go into a haunted house, Radcliffedoes a decent job in selling his curiosity to us, about the house and its story.
It’s the idea that he is married man with a kid that doesn’t go down too well. You keep trying to understand, why they would cast Radcliffe for this part – was there a dearth of actors who looked 30 plus? Because Radcliffe most certainly does not. He also has that perennial expression on his face – the same kind that Harry Potter carried in his movies at every moment of looming danger. Minus points for repetitive acting and disbelief there.
Having said that, the film’s production design reminds you of homes that genuinely give you the creeps – the kind of haunted houses that needn’t do much, while it’s play with light, shadows, rocking chairs and wound-up toys are enough to creep you out. In that sense The Woman in Black relies on old-school horror tricks, with creaking staircases, random glimpses of half-decomposed ghosts in black, doors shutting tight on their own. We could thank The Woman in Black for reminding us that we can get spooked by the simplest things.
A good amount of spine-chilling visuals also add to your entire horror film experience. Cameraperson Tim Maurice-Jones knows what he needs to get the entire picture together – aerial shots of a misty sea in pure grey hues, shadowed forest trees and their play with light and your regular minimalistic piano for background music - and you’re gearing yourself for 95 minutes of periodic covering your eyes and jumping off your seat.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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