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|The Woman in Black|
dir James Watkins
scr Jane Goldman
prd Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes, Brian Oliver
with Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White, Roger Allam, Shaun Dooley, Tim McMullan, Misha Handley, Alexia Osborne, Aoife Doherty, Sidney Johnston, Sophie Stuckey
release US 3.Feb.12, UK 10.Feb.12
12/UK Hammer 1h35
That haunted feeling: Radcliffe
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on both the Susan Hill novel and the hit stage play, this creepy ghost story is nicely translated to the screen with a growing sense of menace that keeps us constantly on edge. It's the especially strong directing and writing that bring it to life, as it were.
In early 1900s London, single dad Arthur (Radcliffe) is a young lawyer in trouble with his boss (Allam), so his next case is make-or-break. To settle an estate, he heads to an isolated Northeast village that gives him a cold-shouldered welcome. And when he gets to the abandoned seaside mansion, he sees the spectre of a woman (White) lurking in the corners. A friendly local (Hinds) is cynical about this, even though it also haunts his wife (McTeer), who is grieving over their son's death. And dying children are a theme in this village.
As he did in Eden Lake, director Watkins balances the atmosphere perfectly, indulging in some cheap scares but mostly building suspense the old fashioned way: with unsettling hints and tiny details. As a result, the film begins to freak us out at the start, and the tension only builds as events progress. Even when Arthur finally figures out what's going on, things keep tightening in on us.
Meanwhile, the clever script fills every scene with bristling menace. At the centre, Radcliffe just about convinces us that he's old enough to be the father of a 4-year-old (Handley). Otherwise, he's engaging as the sceptical guy through whose eyes we experience the terror. And Hinds provides a terrific sceptical counterpoint. Everyone else seems to be milking it for all it's worth, either looking suspicious or tortured.
As it continues, the film finds some genuinely unsettling ways to scare us, mainly because the story centres on the way children seem to bear the brunt of this vengeful ghost's nastiness. So the knowledge that Arthur's son is joining him at the end of the week creates a ticking timebomb as he tries to defuse the wraith's wrath before his own child is in danger. But Watkins and Goldman don't let things go remotely as we expect. It's an unusually satisfying little horror film that deserves the Hammer label.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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