Movie Review: “The Woman in Black”

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“The Woman in Black” is an atmospheric thriller that’s not without its fair share of flaws but in comparison with Hollywood’s affinity for pointless slasher films, it is certainly worth taking a look at.

Marked as Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Harry Potter film, it may be a little strange to get used to seeing him as a widowed father, but Radcliffe settles into the role of Arthur Kipps with calm resolve. As an attorney, Kipps is sent to an incredibly isolated Yorkshire village in order to deal with paperwork left in the Victorian manor of the deceased owner. Having to leave his young son behind with the nanny, Kipps is thrust into a small town filled with people in a constant state of fear and grief.

Without giving too much away, the town is plagued by an evil ghost who is causing the deaths of children. The opening scene, in fact, is perhaps one of the strongest scenes in the film, featuring three little girls having a tea party with their dolls. The little girls are eerily calm as they, as if being given silent instructions, slowly rise from the floor and trample their dolls as they peacefully walk towards their inevitable deaths.

Kipps, already deep in grief from losing his wife, never seems too phased by anything that happens in the film. Even in the most frightening of moments, Kipps never really appears to be too shaken, almost as if a part of him is welcoming the danger with open arms. He is effortlessly stoic as he juggles his living life with that of the dead. His stoicism is sometimes to the film’s detriment because there is a point in the film where you have to wonder if he’ll ever truly react to the events surrounding him. Even when he tries to actively participate in resolving the evil spirit’s troubles, he still does so as if half asleep and uncaring.

Radcliffe is given some excellent support by Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer, playing a couple who have been deeply affected by the ghost’s actions. The husband hides in skepticism as a way to try and protect himself and his wife from reality, while they both carry a burdensome secret. The tense scenes within their home are the only other scenes that are able to compete with the compelling nature of the abandoned manor.

While “The Woman in Black” hits rocky patches, mainly with the weak script and character development, visually it is starkly impressive and compelling. The ambiance of the dark manor is beautiful and terrifying. It stands on a small bit of land that is surrounded by marshes, becoming an isolated island when the tide comes in and submerges the long, winding drive that leads to it. In its darkened corners and cobwebbed corridors, the audience never gets a chance to feel comfortable within its walls, always keeping a watchful eye on the shadows. While “The Woman in Black” certainly makes use of the usual cheap scares that make you jump in your seat, almost to the point of annoyance, it thankfully never loses its hauntingly hypnotic atmosphere that sets it apart from other films of its type.

Check out the eerie trailer:


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