Young solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) journeys to a remote village in northern England. While there he encounters the vengeful ghost of a woman and has to find a way to appease her before it’s too late.
Daniel Radcliffe has a lot riding on The Woman in Black; it is his first big screen outing since the end of the Harry Potter franchise and his chance to prove there is more to him than the boy wizard. Radcliffe is fine in the role of the young solicitor Arthur Kipps, he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, which works to his advantage. Radcliffe is known for his speeches as Harry Potter but in this film he allows the scene and his expression to tell the story.
Ciaran Hinds – another Potter veteran – plays Daily, the only local resident who treats Kipps with any kind of respect. Hinds’s presence in the film was obviously a reassurance to Radcliffe and the two work well on screen together. It is hard to remember a film where Hinds did not give a great performance, but he does not have much to work with in The Woman in Black. His character is relegated to sidekick and deus ex machina; saving Arthur from the haunted house when the situation becomes almost too much for him. Janet McTeer plays Mrs Daily, and she gets to play with the wonderfully weird aspects of her character. McTeer also serves as the mystery solver and lets Kipps in on the secrets of the town.
The film is let down by weak direction, however. Director James Watkins cut his teeth on the 2008 film Eden Lake – which starred our own Michael Fassbender – and is known for writing The Descent: Part 2 and My Little Eye. Sadly, Watkins relies on jumps and scares to carry the film. Once a suitably oppressive atmosphere is established, the tone remains the same for the rest of the film. The tension does not ebb and flow, rather it stays at a heightened level from act two of the film until the end. After the mystery of The Woman is solved, the characters quickly decide what they need to do to appease her and while this leads to the film’s longest sighting of the ghost; again this relies on jumps to scare.
The Woman in Black is adapted from a novel of the same name, but suffers from several issues; it is too soon after Radcliffe made a name for himself playing a school goer for him to be believable as the father of a young child, the tone and pacing are off and there is very little actually scary about the film. It is easy to see why Radcliffe gravitated towards the film – his character is very different to the one we know him for – but the film never lives up to its potential.
The Awakening is a decent ghost story from 2011, rent that instead.