Film Review: The Woman in Black

James Watkins’ adaption of Susan Hill’s novel is a decent supernatural horror. Not quite as unnerving as the stage play, the film nevertheless should satisfy those looking for a fright.

Arthur Kipps is a young lawyer tasked with travelling to a remote village in order to clear up some business with the sale of a house. With his young son reluctant to be parted from him, Kipps is met with hostility when he arrives in the village. When he visits the estate, he notices a mysterious woman in black…

The Woman in Black is a decent ghost story which is very disconcerting at times. There are some great scares, which are likely to disquiet even the most hardened of viewers. Director Watkins excels in generating tension; there are scenes in the film which are finely executed.

The film makes a few changes from the novel and stage play. Most of these are suitable, although there is a scene in The Woman in Black involving the car that is rather implausible and spoils the film to a certain extent. More of the action takes place in the village but away from the estate. This fills in some of the gaps of events only mentioned in the stage play. Otherwise, the film retains they key devices used to scare viewers.

The Woman in Black exudes an over-produced gothic atmosphere that is entirely in keeping with the tone of the film. Visual effects are thankfully kept to a minimum, with Watkins relying far more on sound and lighting to generate the apprehension and fear. The woman could have been less present and more vacillating in the first half of the film, in order to retain mystery. Notwithstanding, the film is still affective as a supernatural horror.

Daniel Radcliffe delivers a uninspiring performance as Arthur Kipps. In scenes of terror Radcliffe is fine, as he only needs to portray anxiety. It is the other scenes, when dialogue delivery is required, where is poor skills become apparent. Ciarán Hinds fairs better as Sam Daily, while Janet McTeer offers a good performance as Mrs Daily.

Although it has some flaws, The Woman in Black should appease those looking for a good fright. The easily scared will have a turbulent hour and a half.

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