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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Woman in Black | Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer | Review

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The Woman in Black

British actor Daniel Radcliffe, who rose to stardom as Harry Potter in the blockbuster film franchise, returns to the big screen as the star of The Woman in Black, which is billed as a supernatural thriller. More  on that later.  Set in England during the early 1900s, the film opens showing three female children playing afternoon tea with their dolls, when suddenly their attention is averted by an unseen force.  They head to the triple windows of their room, climb onto the ledge, and jump to their death as the scene fades to black.

Next, we are introduced to Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) a widowed lawyer, whose young wife died in childbirth and is left alone to raise their son. Still grieving with his job in jeopardy, Arthur is assigned to sort out the papers and estate of a recently deceased woman that takes him by train to a remote village far from London. While on the train, Arthur meets and befriends a local resident, Samuel Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who offers him a ride to the inn where he will be staying.   There, he is told by the owner that there is no room available. The wife, however, refuses to send Arthur back out in the rainstorm with no place to stay and offers him accommodations in the attic, a place with a deadly history that Arthur is unaware of.

The next morning, Arthur is warned not to go to the estate and told to leave town, although he hasn't a clue as to why. It soon becomes evident that something dark and menacing is looming in his midst and he is about to find out in no short order.  Spooky things begin to happen almost immediately after he sits down at a desk in the gloomy mansion's downstair's study.  While going though the deceased woman's letters and other papers, Arthur starts to hear strange noises coming from upstairs. One of the room's door is locked, and he is led to a bedroom where he is startled by a mysterious crow. He opens the window and sees the figure of a woman in black appearing in the yard, which is a forewarning of more terrorizing things to come.

The question of who the woman in black is and the reason behind her evil ways is eventually revealed as the death of the town folk’s young children come into play.  Invited for dinner at Samuel's house, it becomes clear to Arthur that Samuel's wife Ruth (Janet McTeer) is not in her right mind. Not having gotten over the death of her young son, she treats her small twin dogs as if they were her babies, seating them at the table, feeding them with a spoon,  and later rocking them in a cradle. As it turns out, Ruth and her husband aren't the only parents in the village that lost a child.  No child is safe from the Woman in Black, even Arthur's young son who is coming with his nanny to visit his Dad.

The Woman in Black is your typical gothic haunted house flick in which visitors are tormented by a  resident ghost.  For movie goers like myself, who have sat through countless horror tales of this order, it is the same old stuff being recycled all over again. For instance, we get to witness the usual things that go bump in the night, shadowy figures lurking about, ghostly images, an empty chair rocking by itself, rattling door nobs, doors swinging open and closing by themselves, mechanical toys that start to play, spooky doll faces,  dimly lit hallways, messages written on walls, a graveyard and, of course, the titular, angry, dead person seeking vengeance for some reason or another.

Director James Watkins doesn't offer any new tricks and as a result fails to deliver any real jump out of your seat scares.  Rather than lifting the material to another level with a strong performance, Daniel Radcliffe is weak as a man being terrorized.  He doesn't convey much emotion or real fear in situations that would put anyone in panic mode and out the door in a flash.  The cinematography and set design are impressive, but  are not enough to save this film that is overflowing with cliches, predictability and no surprises, including the ending.  I will go along with supernatural, but I can't say The Woman In Black works as a genuine thriller, when there aren't enough scares to fit the bill.

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