A young widower and lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village to work out a client’s estate when he discovers a populous transformed by the belief that a vengeful ghost of a scorned woman that has manipulates village children to commit suicide.
The most iconic Horror film production company of all time; Hammer; is back producing new horror films for the genre they helped define. The Woman in Black features Daniel (Harry Potter) Radcliffe in his first leading role outside of the series that put him on the map. It’s an intimate, paranormal, psychological thriller that’s refreshingly ‘classical’ in its filmic and narrative approach. The opening to The Woman in Black is striking, and really sets the scene for what’s to come. Three little sisters are playing ‘tea party’ in their house’s attic when suddenly they stand, staunch over to the windows and open them in unison. They proceed to peacefully jump to their death. As the camera pulls back from the window frames to hover over the room, not only to do you hear the blood curdling screams of their loved ones, a cloaked figure (‘The Woman’) stands watch.
Screenwriter Jane (X-men: First Class & Kick Ass) Goldman wants the audience to empathise and be drawn into Kipps’ world and there’s a conservative and concise short hand that presents you with his bleak and hopeless situation. He’s alienated from his son as a result of his wife’s death during pregnancy and he’s had to work hard to be able to afford nanny to care for him. Goldman unravels his past in sleepless haunting flashbacks, and makes his character wallow in the excruciating unknown.
- Kipps arrives to (get town) and the towns folk attempt to get him out. His presence and destination is an ominous sign of a darkness to come. Radcliffe shows his increasing acting chops in a role of a young and emotionally wounded man that is desperate to maintain a relationship with his son. Radcliffe’s able to evoke a lot of the terror of the isolation of not only a town that treats your presence like a body fighting an illness but also the slow investigation that uncovers a series of horrific incidents surrounding the supposed ghostly antagonist.
The ominous village provides a surreal space for Kipps because his presence is immediately a sign to locals that he’ll bring them more pain. The town is utter social isolation and as unexplainable horrendous acts begin to occur, Kipps’ work takes him to the manor house on the moor and director James Watkins uses the creaking, leaking, dusty manor to full effect and conjurs a terrifying space for him to occupy. The dark manor and moor provide a literal and metaphysical isolation. The wraith presence of ‘The Woman’ and the shadows of the secrets of the family (get name) reverberate in the isolated and delipadated estate. The grounds cast shadows, doubts and Kipps can never be totally sure whether the horrors that the town speaks of are real or imagined (and I’m not going to say another word on the matter for fear of spoilers).
The Woman in Black feels like a simpler and more intimate horror of yesteryear. The focus on a Radcliffe’s likeable, logical and empathetic Kipps didn’t allow for you to be quite sure of whether the town’s suffering from paranoia, or genuine haunting. It’s well produced, acted and written and for fans of vintage horror, you’ll definitely be entertained.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: James Watkins
Written by: Jane Goldman (Screenplay), Susan Hill (Novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer