Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Woman In Black Review

Greetings, Internet.  I was pretty pumped for Daniel Radcliffe's first foray into non-Harry Potter fare since the conclusion of that great, great saga.  I thought both trailers were quite haunting and effective.  I also found it strange that we never heard Radcliffe speak a single line of dialogue during those two trailers.  Perhaps this was to try to distance him from the Potter franchise.  Indeed, the tone of this film is probably the furthest you could get from that franchise.  The result is a mixed bag that I enjoyed...but not quite as much as I had hoped.

I need to get this out of the way: Daniel Radcliffe does not look old enough to have a four-year-old son.  There, I said it.  Now that that's out of the way I can actually focus on his performance...which was fairly solid.  Yes, after seeing him in the (invisibility) cloak of one Harry Potter for a solid decade, its difficult to picture him in any other role.  This thought plagued me during the first fifteen or so minutes of the film.  It doesn't help that the second shot introduces us to his young son.  Its quite a jarring experience (outside of the context of the film).  Once I was able to move past this superficial thought I quite enjoyed Daniel's performance throughout the film.  He suffers a wide range of emotion and conveys them to us with great effect.  The rest of the cast is perfectly fine - the problem is that they usually show only one emotion, fear.  And sometimes anger.  There really isn't much for anyone else to do in this except, save for Radcliffe.

The beginning of the film is quite confusing, starting with a scene that doesn't end up paying off until nearly the end of the film.  Again, after getting past this confusing set-up I quite enjoyed the actual narrative of the film.  Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps is tasked with settling the account of a deceased widow and her large mansion...which happens to reside on a small island in the middle of what appears to be marshland.  During high-tide the roadway to and from the island is flooded, trapping anyone on the island who remains.  Fairly convenient for a horror/thriller, but is actually quite effective.  The setting itself is haunting; isolation always helps to build tension within the context of most horror films.  Pandorum and Jason X (yes, I went there) are just two that come to mind.  Granted, both of those films are set in space but you get the point.  It took what felt like quite a while to get into the actual main "event" of the film.  The Woman in Black is very much a film that is 80% build-up and 18% climax, with 2% resolution.  And I wasn't all that happy with the 2%.  The climax of the film was harrowing, cringe-worthy, and highly effective.  What came after let me down a bit.  I don't want to spoil anything, but the ending feels like a big "f you" to the audience, who has been on Kipps' side throughout the course of the film.

While I overall enjoyed TWiB, I can't help but having left the theater wanting more.  I can't quite pinpoint what exactly that thing is.  Maybe scarier?  That's tough to say because there are plenty of nail-biting, creep-out moments.  More gore?  Its PG-13 rating hampers what can be shown on-screen but I didn't miss the blood and guts of other horror films, and frankly, there was no need for any.  I really can't say what else I would've wanted, besides a different ending.

What I can say is that I hope that Mr. Radcliffe has a very long, and storied career in Hollywood.  I have a feeling he will.  He's already shown a talent for the stage, and I feel that The Woman in Black shows that he can pull off tension/fear/loss with great aplomb.  I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys being scared, even if it might be on the tamer side.

The Woman In Black has some decent scares peppered throughout (if you can get past the whole child thing), with a fairly compelling narrative.

Bullet out.

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