Daniel Radcliffe and director James Watkins take the horror genre’s haunted house cliche to a new level in “The Woman in Black.”
The film, which is based on Susan Hill’s novel of the same title, stars Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who travels to a small village to straighten out the legal affairs of a recently deceased woman. However, as he searches through papers at the woman’s home, Kipps realizes he may not be alone.
To say that the film is effective as a thriller would be an understatement. I covered my eyes at least five times during the screening. I don’t know what was scarier: the film’s loud, nerve-wracking score or the chilling face of the resentful ghost haunting the village. Regardless, I’m sure both will haunt me for days.
I initially thought the plot would be dull since it has been overdone. However, Radcliffe manages to make a familiar character seem electrifying. His overnight stay at the haunted home was the most stressful sequence I’ve ever seen in a movie. His chemistry with Ciaran Hinds, who plays a landowner in the village, is also exceptional. Radcliffe’s jump from magic to horror will reassure critics and audiences that his fame didn’t end along with Harry Potter’s adventures.
Back to the film itself, the ending is genuinely surprising and highlights Watkins’ talent. He was able to reinvent the haunted house; the last horror flick that successfully depicted a haunting was 1980’s “The Shining.” Perhaps what made the thrills and scares so refreshing was their simplicity and transparency. You knew it was coming … you knew she was going to pop up behind Radcliffe, but somehow it was still terrifying.
I thought the horror subgenre of haunted houses was dead and gone, but this film proved me wrong.