FILM REVIEW: The Woman in Black
- February 3, 2012 1:00 AM |
- By Eli Glasner
Daniel Radcliffe is free. After a decade of carrying the Harry Potter franchise on his narrow shoulders, this 22-year-old finally has the freedom to become a little more interesting.
That's not to say Harry Potter wasn't watchable, but there are certain conditions that come with playing such a role. Potter was meant to be one of us, the universal outcast we could project onto as he battled witches and nose-less wizards.
Which makes The Woman in Black an interesting, perhaps even a safe choice, for his first post-Potter appearance. In some ways it's a familiar context for Radcliffe, an isolated English village in the early 1900s.
Yet The Woman in Black, directed by James Watkins, a rising star in the horror world, is certainly no kids tale. It's a film filled with disturbing sights and a level of intensity far beyond a match of Quidditch.Daniel Radcliffee seems at home in early 1900s setting. (Alliance Films)
In The Woman in Black Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer grieving over the death of his wife who takes a job out in the country to provide for his young son. Kipps arrives in the isolated village to settle the estate of the Eel Marsh House. The property itself looks like Tim Burton's dream house. The walls are painted a pallid purple with cobweb accents. Upstairs, the abandoned nursery is a museum of spooky toys, glass-eyed dolls and, of course, the obligatory creepy monkey with cymbals ready to smash for the perfect scare.
Unsurprisingly, Arthur Kipps isn't welcomed into the village. Terrible things happen to young children here and a nosy lawyer is sure to stir up spirits the town would rather forget.
Aiding Arthur on his quest is Ciaran Hinds as Daily, the last rational soul around, who refuses to believe in vengeful ghosts and enjoys touring around town in his snappy, new horseless carriage. As always, Hind adds a welcome level of professionalism to the proceedings and does his best with the mediocre material.
All in all The Woman in Black is a below-average scary movie with above-average performances. It's the kind of film where Arthur decides on a sleepover in the house from hell saying "I think I'll work through the night" and you can actually hear the entire audience rolling their eyes. That doesn't mean it's not effective, with its thudding soundtrack and children in peril. But It's predictable fare for a filmmaker who made waves with some of his earlier work.
Something else that's predictable -- the film is elevated by the performance of Daniel Radcliffe. Much of the movie rides on Arthur alone, reacting to things that go bump in the night. It's not much of a character arc; Arthur spends half the movie a skeptic and the other half scared right out of his mind. Radcliffe rescues W.I.B. from slipping into camp territory with his true magic talent - emotional openness. As an actor, Radcliffe draws us in with his ability to believe in the unbelievable, even in a creaking turn-of-the-century Amityville Horror.
The Woman in Black is decent distraction that will fade like the fog that surrounds his house on the hill, but I imagine it's just the first of many interesting performances from an actor eager to reintroduce himself.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5.
All Arts & Entertainment blogs
Things That Go Pop!
- FILM REVIEW: Titanic 3D - minute by minute
- James Cameron's Titanic was always a marathon at three hours and counting. As it returns in 3D, Eli Glasner examines the experience --- minute by minute -- and discovers Céline Dion's ubiquitous soundtrack, and James Cameron's risible dialogue, have not improved with age. Continue reading this post
- Sparkle trailer gives last glimpse of Whitney Houston
- A trailer for the movie musical Sparkle was released Monday, giving us a glimpse of Whitney Houston's last project. The late singer plays the mother of Jordin Sparks, an aspiring singer in the 1960s who rises with a girl group similar to the Supremes. Sparkle will be released in August. Continue reading this post
- FABLE FIGHT: Mirror Mirror vs. Wrath of the Titans
- It's a box office battle of mythic proportions this weekend as remixed fables and fairy tales go head to head. In one corner, Mirror Mirror, a snarky retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. In the other, Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to the widely panned remake from 2010. Continue reading this post