Review: The Woman In Black
PLOT: In early twentieth-century Britain, a young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village to clear-out the estate of a couple that died under mysterious circumstances. He ignores the warnings of the townsfolk to discover that the estate carries a horrible curse.
REVIEW: THE WOMAN IN BLACK is being tipped as the first real offering from the newly revitalized Hammer Studios, although they were also behind last year's DTV schlockiest, THE RESIDENT. While that was a modern tale, set stateside, THE WOMAN IN BLACK sticks closely with the gothic, very-UK vibe of the old, classic Hammer Horror tales, with this being the kind of old-school, “things that go bump in the night” style spookfest that really does harken back to the classic films of the studio.
However, while I appreciate the approach, and indeed, WOMAN IN BLACK is a well-made, stylish thriller, I have to admit that , to me anyways, the film was pretty ho-hum. Even if it was beautifully shot, and atmospheric, the fact remains that THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a horror movie, and, for me anyway, it wasn't even slightly scary. Heck, it wasn't even creepy. Rather, it's just ninety-minutes of jump-scenes (form my money, the cheapest scares in the book) strung together by the bare-bones of a plot, imagining the titular WOMAN IN BLACK as a ghost who comes back and steals the lives of children to make up for the child that she lost.
At times, THE WOMAN IN BLACK comes close to working. The scenes involving the children are indeed quite disturbing, and funny enough- everything outside the estate (where, sadly 70% of the film takes place) is actually quite well done. The townsfolk are a colourful, likable lot- and the supporting cast, including Oscar nominee Janet McTeer, and Ciaran Hinds is excellent. Even star Daniel Radcliffe is quite effective in the lead, although- at age 22, he still seems a tad boyish to be playing a widowed lawyer with a four year-old son. Still, he manages to play it older than his years, and I stand firm in the belief that HARRY POTTER was just a beginning for this guy, as he's got the stuff great actors are made of.
Too bad the film is so agonizingly boring and old hat. Everything about this has a “been there, done that” vibe about it. I know that the film is based on a well-regarded novel by Susan Hill, but I assume there must have been more to the story than we get here, with the ending of the film being about as predictable as you can get. In fact, if the “twist” ending takes anybody by surprise, it's probably just that you haven't seen enough good horror movies to see a tepid conclusion from a mile-away.
I really wish WOMAN IN BLACK had worked for me more than it did, as we truly need a company like Hammer to get back in the game, making classy, atmospheric horror films. However, this feels like just too minor a film to use a launchpad back into the game. It's the kind of thing that might have once made for a fun episode of THE OUTER LIMITS, or THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but at ninety-minutes, it just goes on and on without giving you much in return. Hopefully though, this is just the beginning for Hammer, as I'd love to see them reboot the old-school DRACULA/Van Helsing series. Now THAT would be exciting.
|Extra Tidbit:||My casting for a Hammer Dracula reboot: Clive Owen as Dracula, Colin Firth as Van Helsing. There- now go make the movie!|