Daniel Radcliffe will forever be known as Harry Potter, it is the role that will stay with him for the rest of his life. Therefore, for Radcliffe’s first non-Potter role, he chose a very appropriate and expressive film that works with his previous filmsettings and also displays his talent even further with “The Woman in Black.”
Radcliffe plays a young lawyer by the name of Arthur Kipps; a man who has just recently lost his wife and is now has to take care of his 4-year-old son by himself. Still forced to make a living for his broken family, Arthur is sent out to acquire legal documents from a house in a faraway village that is plagued by a mysterious spirit known as “The woman in black.”
When Arthur arrives at the village, he discovers the horrible truth behind this ghostly legend and how children are dying left and right because of it…and he might be joining them soon. As I said before, Radcliffe’s work with the Potter films has perfectly set him up to work in a gothic, backwater time period film like this one.
The mood and feeling of this film is pure dark, it is all about the atmosphere and mood that is built up from the surroundings and dreary colors that create the town and the house that Arthur visits.
While I admit that I find it a bit odd to see someone as young as Radcliffe portraying a recently widowed father, I was not bothered by this fact after seeing what kind of talent he brought to the film’s main piece.
Most of this film focuses on just Arthur being inside the house, with large portions of it having almost no dialog at all and just focusing on the spooky goings on and Arthur’s reaction to them. This film is all about building up the mood, the fear, the dread, and the disturbing images and faces that haunt Arthur throughout his stay in the house.
I loved how the story didn’t try to hide the Woman in black; they made her presence known from the very beginning and didn’t waste any dialog or story material on building any sense of disbelief from others in the village on whether or not she existed.
Too many horror or suspense films waste pointless lines of dialog on the inevitable debate of whether or not the characters believe in ghosts or vampires or whatever and here, they made it as quick and painlessly fast as possible.
Speaking of quick, some of the scares felt just as fast and just as predictable at times. The first half of the film relies a lot on jump scares and loud sounds, built up from the shots seen or the music that goes quiet and then explodes to get a scare out of you.
Thankfully though, the rest of the film relied more on genuine fear from the surrounding atmosphere and setting. This movie is a fine testament on how horror films can be scary and effective without using butt loads of nudity, gore, swearing or jump scares.
The music and presentation are also quite well done, this film looks, sounds, and feels so genuine but without any boring or dragging parts. Everything you see in this film is a build up to something more and even the opening sequence will leave you quite shocked to your core.
The ending however is probably going to be something that leaves many people unsettled, if not unsatisfied though I personally didn’t have a problem with the ending. I think the reason people can find it unlikable is the fact that the movie really does not leave you with any other direction to go in other than the cliché typical ending, and this is NOT a typical cliché ending.
There really isn’t much of a cast to this movie, nor is there room for it to go anywhere other than back to the house with Radcliffe. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the movie’s real strength and quality come in the reactions and experiences that we see in that house, but it is something that is worth noting. I think this film can really serve as a perfect demonstration of what kind of actor Radcliffe is and what he can do.
Radcliffe has more than just the Potter fame behind him now, he has sincere, genuine talent and knows how to use it and convince us of just about anything.
No one else would have worked in this film as Arthur Kipps, its Radcliffe that keeps us scared, convinced, and clinging to our seats as the film’s more than capable scare tactics succeed just as effectively. I am not usually a fan of movies set in this old age era and I find horror movies using cheap jump scares on its audiences to be frightfully tacky.
However, there is far better content in this film then there is bad and it’s all used in the areas you wouldn’t think. I have not been truly scared or impressed by a film or its lead actor in a long while and I was quite happy to be surprised with this film.
Overall, “The Woman in Black” accomplishes much more than I had expected and succeeded on the two most important elements this film had to offer: the acting and the terror.
The ending may make you feel wish washy, there isn’t really anyone else in this movie to speak of and the use of jump scares did irritate me. However, Radcliffe shows his true colors and they are quite amazing to look at.
The scares were effective (when they didn’t use jump scares), the tension was plenty thick, and it genuinely surprised me quite a few times. I say if you love Harry potter, Daniel Radcliffe, or being scared give this a shot.
I rate “The Woman in Black” 3 stars out of 4.