Wednesday, February 01, 2012


A few years ago, James Watkins made a brilliant little British horror film that was genuinely petrifying, and politically interesting, given its use of feral chav kids to hunt down a nice middle-class couple. Sadly, Watkins' latest film, an adaptation of Susan Hill's massively successful THE WOMAN IN BLACK, is about as banal, boring and benign as a horror movie can get. There are three problems - the direction, the script and the casting.  And given that there isn't much left of a movie if you get these three wrong, you can see why I've tagged this review "piss-poor".  

The story is a classic Victorian haunted house horror (though penned in the early 80s).  Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor sent to go through the documents at the deceased Mrs Drablow's imposing and isolated mansion.  The villagers prove hostile and reluctant to take him there - all but the rationalist squire Daily.  Soon, Kipps is seeing a mysterious woman in black; young children in the village are dying in brutal circumstances; and the house is acting against him...  The documents and Daily help Kipps understand the reason for the deaths, and together they try to appease the ghost.....

Apparently the horror afficionado and superb screenwriter Mark Gatiss (BBC's recent SHERLOCK) was asked to write the script. One can only dream of what might have been. Instead we get a screenplay from Jane Goldman (KICK-ASS) that uses every horror cliché without understanding or breathing life into them.  Similarly, James Watkins' workmanlike direction uses every horror trick - malevolent toys, spooky children, diagonal camera-angles - to no real effect.  It's like he read a "Polanski for Dummies" book.  But the biggest problem is the casting. Daniel Radcliffe just isn't old enough to convincingly play a grieving widower and father of a toddler. And he comes across as curiously inert and unexpressive, especially when playing across from the marvellous Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer (squire Daily and his mentally disturbed wife). It's going to be curious to see how many of the HARRY POTTER kids have a career beyond the franchise, but this movie, so reliant on Radcliffe alone in a haunted house, does not bode well.

The reason you see so few horror reviews on this site is that I am a complete girl when it comes to horror - I get scared by the smallest things. But I sat through this flick unscared and uninterested. Doubleplus not good.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK is released this weekend in the USA, Canada and Argentina. It opens on February 10th in the UK, Denmark, Greece and Portugal. It opens on February 17th in Spain; on February 24th in the Netherlands, Brazil and Poland; on March 2nd in Italy; on March 7th in Belgium; on March 9th in Turkey; on March 15th in France, Russia and Singapore and on March 29th in Germany, Hungary and Sweden.

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