At the tail end of the 19th century, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) still feels like the wound is still fresh when it comes to his wife who died four years ago after giving birth to their son. Arthur is drowning in a depressive state that even his son notices. As a lawyer, Arthur is forced to travel to a secluded town to take care of the work of the now deceased Alice Drablow as a last ditch effort to save his job. Arthur is expecting to be buried in paperwork until the weekend, but the odd occurrences that transpire are a bit out of left field. Everyone in town practically begs for Arthur to return to London immediately as children continue to die gruesome deaths left and right. Ignoring their pleas, Arthur decides to confront the problem head on and stay at the Drablow's menacing house where his constant run-ins with the supernatural eventually take its toll on him.
The Woman in Black is a horror film that I wanted to be good. It's Daniel Radcliffe's first movie outside of the Harry Potter franchise and he's been pretty enthusiastic about it in interviews, but every bit of promotional material seemed to point at the movie being your everyday, generic, run of the mill, "scary" movie. The Woman in Black does provoke your interest at first. The strange opening is a little hokey, but kind of intrigues you at the same time. The atmosphere the movie tries to setup is its strongest asset though. The heavy use of fog and old fashioned feel of the town does make the town feel like it existed in the late 1800s and the ominous score does its best to try and bring you to the edge of your seat. The Drablow house is the key to that atmosphere as itís absolutely gorgeous in this hideously grotesque kind of way. Everything is so dusty and creepy while the Victorian design only adds to that uneasy feeling the movie tries to stir up in the pit of your stomach.
In the meantime though, everything else in the movie is working against it. It's extremely uneventful. Daniel Radcliffe reads papers, walks through a house, holds a candle, and gets a little dirty. That's the entire movie in one sentence. The Woman in Black also resorts to relying on nothing more than jump scares to try and scare its audience. There are four in the first twenty minutes; two from the same sequence and there are at least ten throughout the entire movie. Jump scares can be fantastic in small portions, but come off as incredibly weak when you can see them coming a mile away and are strung together haphazardly for a cheap effect. There isn't much dialogue while Arthur is in the Drablow house either, which is practically the entire movie. This was probably done to try and make the audience more absorbed with what was taking place on screen, but seems like a bit of a copout overall. Radcliffe has proven that he is an extremely talented actor, but he's pretty bland here. He mostly wanders around in a daze with a frazzled look on his face the entire time. His hosting gig on Saturday Night Live was more impressive in comparison.
The Woman in Black will still be a very successful film as nearly everyone who was or still is a Harry Potter fan will be lining up around every street corner just to be able to see this movie, but the fact of the matter is that it just isn't a great movie. Its representation of the late 19th century is pretty good, but the writing, the "scares," and (most of all) the entire conclusion are all just extremely disappointing. The Woman in Black is a watered down version of last year's Insidious that will more than likely gain a lot of praise it doesn't deserve.
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