Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The Woman In Black (2012)
Every nerd (or geek if you prefer) has a bucket list of certain nerdy things to do before they die. For me, one of these things was to see a Hammer film in theaters. I was able to do that as the giant HAMMER logo flashed across the screen.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer, looking to prove to his bosses that he wants a future with the firm. He is assigned the case of closing the Drablow estate on a coastal England town. He arranges for his son and the nanny to meet him in a few days for a nice quiet country weekend after his work is finished. When he arrives to the town he meets a friendly wealthy man named Sam Daily who helps him in his days spent around town. Kipps quickly discovers that something isn't quite right with the townspeople as they are deathly afraid of outsiders and anything that isn't in line with their customs. Even Mr. Daily and his nice car (the only in the village) is looked down upon. Kipps arrives at Eel Marsh House, a secluded mansion seemingly in the middle of the ocean with only a dirt/gravel road and it washes out when high tide comes in.
At the house Kipps begins to go through the paperwork of the estate but is haunted by the sound of footsteps and other noises such as disembodied screams. He eventually sees a ghostly figure of a woman dressed in black and reports the sighting at the local police station. While there a pair of brothers rush their sister in for help as she has become deathly ill from drinking Lye. The girl ends up dying in Kipps arms. The townspeople urge the young lawyer to leave town but he insists on staying and completing his work since his job depends on it. Kipps stay reveals a paranoia within the town that could be caused by a supernatural being and a curse.
Right off the bat it is fantastic to see a period horror film again. The set design was rich and looked great. The entire film had a dreary quality to it that fit the setting of a turn of the century coastal English town. The main thing that stuck out positively is that this is a well acted film starting at the top with Daniel Radcliffe, who pushes the young wizard from Hogwarts aside and gives a great adult performance, all the way to the various kids throughout who are convincing in their limited roles. The writing was adequate for a modern day ghost movie. Too little is left to the imagination but there is never a moment in the writing that really made me groan in agony. This film is the 2nd adaptation of the novel with the same name, and it could have taken a page from the 1989 film in which less was more. Radcliffe would have been more than capable of handling the role even if more of the focus was put on him and less on the ghostly activities. Radcliffe could have shouldered the duties and made the film shine.
Director James Watkins (Eden Lake) has mixed results behind the camera. There are some scenes handled with class and talent. Watkins manages to effectively build tension throughout the film but all too often they are ruined with bullshit jump scares. That is the main problem with THE WOMAN IN BLACK, the total reliance on jump scares. This may speak more to modern horror audiences and their general inability to appreciate anything that doesn't scream BOOM right in their face or see the nuances in a finely crafted ghost story, but it is a major mistake on Watkins' part. The other glaring problem is the amount of modern Asian horror ghost story cliches throughout. One mention of films like The Grudge or The Eye and you know what I mean.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK is influenced too much by modern ghost movies and not enough by the Gothic style Hammer films are known for. It really is a shame too because there are plenty of positive things to say about the film but the mistakes are glaring and too big to overlook.