The Woman in Black (2012) – Film Review

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 the early twentieth-century, 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-off 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. The film’s original score by Marco Beltrami is sadly also very mediocre however, 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 however 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. Personally however, I’m 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 overreliance 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.


Winchester (2018) – Film Review

Although slightly better than some other modern horrors, ‘Winchester’ is nothing incredibly memorable. Despite the film’s story being based on true events and having some decent performances throughout, the film still suffers from mostly a bland atmosphere and enormous overreliance on jump-scares. Resulting in a mostly boring experience.

Plot Summary: In 1906, ‘Sarah Winchester’ the firearm heiress mourning the loss of her family. Begins to believe she is being haunted by the souls of people killed by the ‘Winchester’ repeating rifle. So ‘Doctor Eric Price’ is sent by order of her company to her ever-growing home in California in order to inspect her sanity…

A story like this isn’t anything new for sure, we’ve all heard the ‘based on a true story’ or ‘haunted by my past’ storyline a thousand times before. However, they were a few elements of this story I did enjoy, the main two protagonists of the film, that being: ‘Doctor Eric Price’ portrayed by Jason Clark, and ‘Sarah Winchester’ portrayed by Helen Mirren both give decent performances and their characters are given some depth. The same cannot be said for the side characters of: ‘Marion Marriott’ and ‘Henry Marriott’ however, as these characters are given no characterisation barley and do so little within the narrative I was constantly questioning their inclusion.

The film overall has an extremely bland look, as the dim grey colour palette alongside the mostly still and uninventive cinematography by Ben Nott make the film very dull visually. The original score by Peter Spierig also doesn’t benefit the film much, as the soundtrack is you usual horror score with nothing really interesting about it, other than the occasional moment when it becomes uncomfortably loud. There is the occasional pleasing shot or interesting idea here, but it’s definitely few and far between.

Despite the location and the time-period of the film actually being some of the main draws towards it (considering most horrors are usually set within modern-day) and with the ‘Winchester Mansion’ being a real haunted attraction in America. I was very disappointed to find the location barley utilised, as aside from one short scene in the film where the doctor explores an eerie dark hallway, the mansion is mostly confined to a few different rooms throughout the runtime.

The film also (as usual) has a heavy-reliance on jump-scares, which means the film barley even makes an attempt to build tension. The film seems more in favour of fading out all of the audio before leading into a loud screeching sound while a ‘terrifying’ face appears on-screen. This is an issue with many modern horrors in all fairness, and feels like nothing other than laziness on the filmmaker’s part.

In conclusion, ‘Winchester’ is certainly not one of the worst horrors I’ve ever seen. However, it is a big waste of potential, as I feel a story set within the walls of the ‘Winchester Mansion’ could have been really interesting if the film would’ve gotten inventive with the iconic location they had at their deposal. But as is, the weak characters, bland visuals and dull atmosphere add-up to a very forgettable modern horror. Final Rating: 3/10.


Mom and Dad (2018) – Film Review

I was very disappointed upon my initial watch of: ‘Mom and Dad,’ as I originally went into this one anticipating an extremely funny, gory and over-the-top dark comedy. Featuring an equally over-the-top performance by the infamous Nicolas Cage. However, I soon found out this wasn’t the case at all, as the film didn’t deliver enough on most of the elements I was expecting, resulting in an extremely weird film for the wrong reasons.

Plot Summary: When a teenage daughter returns home after a day at school, she and her younger brother must try to survive a twenty-four hour period in which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to violently kill their own children.

Although it’s never fully explored, I personally feel this strange yet unique idea for a narrative is one of the best elements of the film. But with a plot sounding this insane, and of course featuring Nicolas Cage (a man known for his crazy and very memorable performances) I expected something truly special for the comedy-horror genre. But I was very underwhelmed. As the film didn’t really deliver on any of it’s best aspects for me, with the story is very simple and barely getting any development beyond the initial idea, with the same sadly being said for the characters.

The film also gives nowhere near enough screen-time to Nicholas Cage, as although he does have a few memorable moments throughout the story. It’s his co-star Selma Blair who takes up the majority of the scenes, and considering his name is all over the marketing, and his over-the-top style of acting would suit a film like this perfectly, it’s not unfair to have expected more from him. The children in the film portrayed by Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur are both decent but very forgettable.

In regards to the actual filmmaking, the film is nothing too impressive. As film contains mostly bland cinematography by Daniel Pearl, relying on large amounts of shaky-cam for the majority of the runtime. The editing in the film is also very distracting, as aside from the opening title sequence of the film which is framed very similar to the opening of a family sitcom, which I found quite amusing. Unfortunately, everything after this intro I did not. As the film’s editing comes off as very messy and out-of-time at points, as it feels to me like director Bryan Taylor was trying to capture a similar tone to his ‘Crank’ series of films. With the film feels very energetic and fast-paced, but it simply comes off as unusual to me.

One of the element of the film I did sum-what enjoy however is the original score composed by ‘Mr. Bill.’ As the film’s soundtrack does help to build tension during many of the chase scenes. However, although I do like this score for its’s originality, it doesn’t always fit within the film or it’s pacing. Alongside this, the film also seems to shy away from more violent scenes, as we only see a few actual deaths on-screen. The remainder of the violence is usually off-screen, only showing small bits of blood to the audience now and then, for a fun comedy-horror like this, I believe that’s a huge mistake. As I feel the film should have gone all-in on the gore/fun factor.

All in all, I wasn’t very impressed with ‘Mom and Dad,’ I feel a film like this would’ve been extremely entertaining if done correctly. But the film really falls short of being the fun gore-fest it set out to be. If the film was more along the lines of something like: ‘Shaun of the Dead’ or ‘Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’ I think it could’ve been something really enjoyable. As I do believe director Bryan Taylor is somewhat talented, being both the director and writer of this film, I could see him directing another strange comedy like this in the future (hopefully one a little better though). Final Rating: high 2/10.