Monday, February 06, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

Ever wonder what it would be like if Harry Potter in the Victorian Era took part in the prequel to Insidious?

Okay, I promise, last Harry Potter joke in this review. That's not to say that I can't joke about Daniel Radcliffe, though. It's only fair.

The Woman in Black has mostly been regarded for two aspects of its production: The involvement of Hammer Films, and the star role being played by Daniel Radcliffe, in his ninth movie and the first in which he covers up the lightning bolt scar on his forehead (what do you mean that isn't really there? Does that count as a HP joke?). There was clearly more to this film than that, though; the multiple studios in the opening credits indicate a team effort, and one that paid off in the visual and scares departments.

Daniel Radcliffe lives in a world where one car and not a single telephone can be found in the whole of a small village- I may have my history mistaken, but I was under the impression that telephones and electric lamps were somewhat more widespread before the invention of cars. This is an era when it's not too surprising for your wife to die giving birth to your child, going on to become a foil to the titular Woman by becoming the Lady in White that is seen in glances.

Radcliffe works for a law firm, and has been sent to dig through the paperwork of a deceased woman and find anything that could be her Will. When he arrives in town, however, it seems the people of the town will do everything in their power to keep him from making the trip to her house, and not just because it's a long way through perilous marshes to get there. There seems to be some connection between this house and the frequent and mysterious deaths of children in town (complete with accompanying reused stock screams of "My Baby!").

What results is an incredibly creepy film that blends the slasher and haunted house sub-genres perfectly. The only thing that surpasses the creepy nature of this film is the raw anger generated by the PG-13 audience shrieking every time the Woman in Black is glanced or she effects the living world. Ignoring that, for a moment (I think my vlog covered that sufficiently well), there was really only one flaw with the scares, and that is the jump scares that overdid it. This film, like the trailers before it, is riddled with jump scares. The vast majority of them, however, are done extremely well- good enough to remind me why they were introduced in the first place, and why they have a home in horror. There are a couple, though, toward the end of the film, that fly in the face of the plot. It's clear that the characters are acting in a way that scares the audience, rather than in their own interest, as the minute the scare is over, they return to actions that make sense in the story.

I've seen very few negative opinions, but enough that I feel I ought to issue a disclaimer. If you're not a fan of subtle (subtle if you're not in a crowded theatre filled with screaming teenaged girls, that is) scares and creepy atmosphere, and require a faster paced, more physically brutal film to scare you, you're liable to miss the scare factor in this movie. 9 out of 10 horror fans, though, seem to share the opinion that this movie is worth watching.

My recommendation is that if you're looking for a good scare, with virtually nothing in the realm of cheesy slasher fun, is to watch this movie when the kids are still in school.

Bill Silvia is a regular contributor at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. You can find more of his content at


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Hmmm...this may be too frightening for me to go and see alone.

SQT said...

I much prefer scary and suspenseful films to anything gory. I'll probably give this one a go but wait for DVD. Thanks for the review!

The Man in Black said...

I'm still seeing more people pop up saying this movie is only for people "new to horror". Maybe it's just that people who've been doing what I do except for more than twice as long are too desensitized for a creepy movie.

SQT said...

I've hear that too-- that it's not too scary if you're a horror fan.