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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Woman in Black | Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janat McTeer | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Woman in Black | Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer | Review

If you like typical horror films, you’ll find this one effective.

The Woman in Black has all of the familiar trappings:  a large old estate, a figure in black, shadowy movements, and lots of sudden, unexpected death.

Young widower Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a sad man, drowning in debt, with a young son Joseph (Misha Handley) to support.  The junior solicitor’s (lawyer) career is in jeopardy and he lives in such perpetual mourning that his son can only draw him with a frown and a briefcase.

Given one last chance to redeem himself by his employer, Kipps is given a deceptively simple assignment that will take him to Crythin Gifford, a remote, seaside town to settle a deceased woman’s affairs.

The Drablow estate, Eel Marsh House, is a massive, foreboding manor that is only accessible by a winding road through the marsh that floods for long periods of time each day.

Kipps finds the town’s locals suspicious of his presence, hiding their children and scowling at him with fearful, even hateful glares.  Many of them have suffered the tragic death of a child, including Kipps’ own business contact Mr. Jerome (Tim McMullan) who now refuses to cooperate with him regarding the Drablow estate’s legal affairs.

Fortunately, Samuel Daily (Ciarán Hinds) is accommodating enough to provide Kipps with information, transportation, and assistance to solve (somewhat) the mystery of the feared Woman in Black legend that’s plagued the town for years.

Even Daily’s been touched by tragedy with the drowning of his young son, one that has caused Mrs. Daily (Janet McTeer) tormented episodes of possessed behavior when she thinks her child is trying to communicate through her.

The two men take on the vindictive presence at Eel Marsh House by feeding it, in a way.  Will their efforts be enough?

Atmospherically, the period (Victorian) and the climate (gray and rainy) are captured admirably.  The fog is a white foe as much as night is a black one.  The eeriness comes from sounds and shadows – a door which opens on its own, an advancing figure from behind.

In his first post-Potter role, Daniel Radcliffe still retains the serious “Harry” face that has become his trademark; his steady, sober gaze punctuated by laser-like blue eyes is able to convey dread without hysteria.  While that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it maintains a dramatic credibility for the young actor that shows promise for future roles.  I’m holding out for a comedy to really see some range.

Ciarán Hinds brings his formidable face into each scene as the voice of reason that every effective horror story needs to keep the terror alive in a believable way.  Janet McTeer’s bouts of momentary madness as a grieving mother are unnerving and impart a scare-factor all their own.

Jane Goldman’s adapted screenplay by the Susan Hill novel of the same name does not rely on a waterfall of words; images provide the rest, thanks to Production Designer Kave Quinn, Art Director Paul Ghirardani, and Set Decorator Niamh Coulter.

Director James Watkins (Eden Lake) maintains the chills in a routine way and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as he gets his monstrous message across.

He does, and she likes to wear black.  Typical.

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