Plot: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
Director: James Watkins
Writers: Susan Hill (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds
Harry Potter and the Sullen Lady
"During afternoon tea, there's a shift in the air, a bone trembling chill that tells you she's there
There are those who believe the whole town is cursed but the house in the marsh is by far the worst.
What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back - the spectre of darkness, the woman in black"
"The Woman in Black" went from being a novel, to being a play, to being TV movie and finally a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. 2012 version of the story is definitely the weakest one to date, but in the world where "found footage" horrors and shaky camera are what passes for horror movie, it is quite refreshing to see good old fashioned ghost story with haunted house, malicious ghost and noble hero, who is in way over his head.
Radcliffe plays a young man who lost his wife during childbirth. He has a young son, who he loves dearly - unfortunately, he also has financial problems which forces him to relocate to creepy town in order to attempt to sell property there. The problem is that ever since he arrives things do not go well - people are hostile for unknown reason, he keeps seeing weird things in the corner of his eye and finally a child dies in his arms. Soon he learns the secret - a woman, who once lost her child and now wants her revenge is haunting the townsfolk and whenever she is seen, a child dies.
The film's biggest weakness is Radcliffe - he is a miscast here, despite him trying very hard to be someone else than just Harry Potter. It's a bit too soon for that - maybe in few years if he starred in a movie liked that the effect would be better, but it's not even a year after the last part of "Harry Potter" series premiered. Radcliffe looks like a lost child, not like a grieving husband and concerned father. In the movie's many chilling scenes where he is wandering around the scary house he looks as if he was searching for one of the Horcruxes, not fighting for his own survival which he should be at that point of the story.
Another problem with "The Woman in Black" is that at times it feels a bit too modern - the costumes and set pieces are designed very well and look like straight from Victorian era - but they are ruined by little details - too much of modern CGI - like the moment when we see Woman's face screaming in the window, vibrant colours that stand out next to destroyed furniture and old toys in the house and finally sloppy make up of the Woman - I was astonished by how cheesy and not scary it was. When she is covered with her veil she looks frightening. But when we see her face, there is nothing to be scared of, especially in the last shot of the film which I found to be a huge let down.
The cinematography of the movie is gorgeous - it is greatly aided by all the details meticulously placed in the frames - many bizarre objects, dusty curtains, old paintings, creepy photographs- all the elements you could possibly wish to appear in the ghost story. The most gorgeous part of the film is the beautiful and disturbing prologue where three young girls suddenly turn to the window, walk slowly towards it, crushing teacups with their boots and then they jump to their deaths.
That ending was praised in many reviews, which I found to be weird. As much as it was backed by change to the original story - where Kipps's wife was alive - it did feel like an easy way out. It almost looked like the authors didn't know how to finish the movie - so we are left with contradictions - on one hand it looks like the Woman in Black is still vengful, yet she takes pity on Kipps. The ending doesn't make any bold decisions, it simply happens and then you leave the theatre and soon the movie just fades from your mind. With stronger ending, that would not be the case.
Once you overlook the plot holes you will have fun but there are way too many of them to consider "The Woman in Black" to be a great movie. Since she appears so many times, why only so few kids died? Why didn't Kipps actions work? Why was she so vengeful towards the people who weren't directly responsible for her unhappiness? The last one may of course be explained that since she is doomed to walk th Earth as a shadow for ever, without her beloved child she is simply bitter and wants revenge on whoever she can find.