If films are supposed to be judged on what they set out to accomplish, then The Woman in Black is a success. The film only aspires to have audience members jump out of their seats and scream. There in lies the problem with this film. It doesn’t aspire to be much at all. Look past all the scares and there is barely anything holding it together.
Directed by James Watkins and written by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass), The Woman in Black follows a widower (Daniel Radcliffe) as he goes to an abandoned mansion to gather paper work for the law firm he works for. The mansion also happens to be the site of a nearby drowning and a suicide. As you can no doubt guess by now, a bunch of clichés of the horror genre follow, and Watkins and Goldman have decided to add some originality too it by just piling on with everything. There’s something moving in the corner of the screen in almost every frame. More things go boo than I can count. Every decision made by a character is dumber than the last, and every new person we meet is stranger than the last.
Obviously this works for the typical person that can be found at the theater on opening weekend for a horror film, but when you really think about this film, it just falls apart. There are actual attempts to flesh out some of the main characters (which is more than can be said for most horror films), but all the good will Jane Goldman gains with this quickly dissipates when all of her characters make decisions that seem illogical for anyone with a normal IQ. Beyond that there is no real plot. Daniel Radcliffe’s character goes to a haunted house. There’s a possibly evil spirit there and no one’s motives are revealed until the last 20 minutes. It’s all just scares.
At least the film is gorgeous to look at. This is some top-notch cinematography from Tim Maurice-Jones on display here. The outdoor shots are pretty and the indoor shots are very atmospheric. Most impressive though is that many of the indoor shots include mirrors. Some of these shots are just jaw dropping and really make you wonder how in the world they could be pulled off. Marco Beltrami also contributes an impressive score.
Despite featuring some talented character actors, the acting in this film was pretty subpar. Daniel Radcliffe is terribly miscast. The film should have gone with a much older actor, and no matter how hard Radcliffe tries, all I can see within in his performance is a move by the powers that be to get a few extra bucks at the box office. Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer deliver very un-noteworthy turns, which is surprising because they always leave an impression. The kid actors are also unmemorable and deliver your typical child performance in a horror film. Then again none are ever given a chance to deliver a developed performance.
The Woman in Black just seems to be a cash grab from all parties involved. The film doesn’t aspire to be much, but it is at least successful at what it does.