Fresh off the success of the final ‘Harry Potter’ instalment, Daniel Radcliffe now takes on a paranormal horror story in this adaptation of the classic British gothic horror novel: ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill. Yet sadly, the film ends-up being a pretty lacklustre (and even somewhat boring) experience overall.
Plot Summary: In 1906, a young solicitor travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorising the locals and stealing their children. But as he begins to investigate further, he soon uncovers a darker history than he initially thought possible…
Although this type of plot is nothing new for the horror genre, the film does attempt to experiment slightly to engage it’s audience more through mystery and tension. This is especially clear in the eerie opening stinger, which is probably my favourite scene within the film, but I still personally feel the film doesn’t have quite enough experimentation to stand-out that much. As I initially hoped due to its distinct British roots and story based on a successful novel, the film would be somewhat memorable. Unfortunately, the film is mostly quite bland, having a few eerie visuals, but nothing overly exceptional in terms of filmmaking.
Daniel Radcliffe portrays the protagonist of the story: ‘Arthur Kipps’ very similar to how he has portrayed many of his other characters in the past. Coming across as a mostly likeable character with a little bit of development but nothing extremely major, this is an issue with the majority of the characters, however, which leads me onto the fairly dreadful writing throughout the film, as the film always talks directly to the audience, usually leaving no room for subtlety and coming as mostly cliché and cheesy throughout. Despite the rest of the cast of Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer and Liz White also doing a decent job with what little they are given.
The cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones is mostly fine throughout the film, having the occasional attractive shot, but never really anything overly interesting. Although I was actually impressed with a variety of the transitions throughout the films, as many of them really utilised the location they were set in very well. Interestingly, many of the music boxes and mechanical toys in the nursery scenes weren’t created for the film, but were genuine antique toys from the time-period, loaned to the production by a collector, which I feel really enhances the film’s set-design. However, the film’s original score by Marco Beltrami is sadly also very mediocre, never really becoming very memorable or unique other than the occasional scene where the soundtrack is overly loud and extremely irritating.
Being a modern-day horror film, it’s also probably not much of a surprise that ‘The Women in Black’ is littered with jump-scares, with many of them even being false scares, such as birds appearing out of nowhere, slamming doors and loud screams without a source. All of this adding to the mostly weak atmosphere and many slow scenes, leaving the film with not much to offer beyond its pretty average filmmaking.
One element of the film I did enjoy is the production design, as despite the film definitely not delivering on an eerie atmosphere or well-developed characters, the film does truly feel like it is set in the twentieth century, as every location/set, prop and costume all feel used/lived-in and are very accurate to the story’s time-period. However, I’m personally not an enormous fan of the design of the title character herself: ‘The Woman in Black,’ as even although this may be more of an issue with the novel rather than the film, I find her design simply lacks in many aspects, as every-time she is on-screen she feels very generic and bland for what is attempting to be a tense paranormal horror story.
In conclusion, ‘The Woman in Black’ didn’t really impress me all that much, as while not completely awful, it felt very similar to ‘Winchester’ from 2018 to me. As the film does have some great elements, yet gets completely bogged down by its over-reliance on jump-scares rather than a creepy atmosphere, alongside a fairly uninteresting story and characters, and is by the end of its runtime, a true bit of wasted protentional for a classic British horror. Final Rating: high 3/10.