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The Woman in Black (2012)
The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
Writers: Susan Hill, Jane Goldman
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds, Sophie Stuckey, Emma Shorey, Molly Harmon, Misha Handley, Jessica Raine, Roger Allam, Lucy May Barker, Indira Ainger, Andy Robb, Shaun Dooley, Mary Stockley, Alexia Osborne, Alfie Field, Victor McGuire, Cathy Sara, Tim McMullan, Daniel Cerqueira, Liz White, Alisa Khazanova, Ashley Foster, David Burke, Aoife Doherty, Sidney Johnston
Synopsis: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images
Welcome to the world of acting outside of Hogwartz, Mr. Potter
Where "Insidious" failed last year to re-establish itself as a scary haunted house horror film, "The Woman in Black" seems to succeed ten fold. Unlike "Insidious" that came off as laughable at best in it's attempt to be scary, I have to admit that "The Woman in Black" does a great job setting up the atmosphere of it's movie to create some genuinely scary moments. Sure, the movie suffers from having poorly written dialogue, and falls into most horror film cliches that one would expect. However, James Watkins does a wonderful job using the atmosphere of the settings, to create some truly horrific moments. Plus, unlike the actors in "Insidious", the actors were able to display emotion and fear throughout their performances that resonate with the audience; which helps the film quite a great deal.
I especially enjoyed how the film would often toy with the viewers by using the little things with the settings to build up the suspense; like the lighting, the positioning of the creepy looking toys, and featuring subtle yet creepy noises. You'd still have the creepy subtle background music, while subtly using the lighting to toy with the audience a bit more. Never showing the mysterious ghost like entity completely until the very end. You have that weird creepy moment of silence, where you know that something horrific is about to happen. Of course, there's even a clever use of some eerily creepy toys that seem to only add to the layer of creepiness this film provides. Indeed, this is truly one of the better haunted house films that I've seen in quite a while.
For those wondering if Daniel Radcliffe would be able to shake off that image of "Harry Potter", then I should tell you won't get any trace of that here. No, the character he plays is entirely new, as Daniel does a tremendous job conveying the internal conflicts of his character has emotionally; while still portraying the level of fear that one would expect from a role like this. Of course, you can never expect Oscar worthy performances from movies like these, but it does help break or make the film. After all, if you can't buy into the level of fear your protagonists go through, then how are we supposed to be scared along with them? Any true horror fan can attest that films like these often work when it features protagonists that we identify with, or root for on certain level to make it out alive. "The Woman in Black" excels in that philosophy, as it does provide a sensible protagonist that you can't help but root for, which only lends us to fearing for his safety even more.
Granted, it's certainly not a masterpiece by any definition, as the story still features stereotypical characters, poorly written dialogue, and it's script falls into various cliches that one would expect from it's genre. But as I stated in my review of "The Help", it doesn't matter if a story has been retold countless of times, while retreading on a concept nearly to death. However, if that retold story is portrayed rather well, then you can still argue it still comes out being an enjoyable movie. Like "The Help", "The Woman in Black" won't win any originality points, due to it retreading on the same old tired haunted house concept. However, since it's told very well through it's settings, and eerily creepy atmosphere, it comes off being a rather enjoyable horror film.
The movie essentially takes place in the Victorian era, where a widowed lawyer named Arthur (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to a small village on assignment from his law firm. His assignment is search through a cryptic old mansion for papers, but the local villagers warn him not to go there upon his arrival. Unfortunately, he has no choice, as his job depends on it, as his law firm hasn't been satisfied with his performance lately, so he has to succeed if he wants to support his child. Against all protests, Arthur makes several visits to the house to gather the paperwork he needs from there. Unfortunately, he soon finds out that he may be in for more than he bargains for.
As it turns out, the house is haunted by a mysterious ghost that has been terrorizing the local villagers, and takes away their children, whenever anyone dares to see her face. Unfortunately, Arthur must finish his work at all costs, but what he fails to realize that his quest to finish his work could cost him everything he holds dear. I would go on to explain more of the story, but that wouldn't be fair to my readers. No, part of this movie's charm is the mystery behind the ghostly entity, and what horror entail as the film unfolds.
"The Woman in Black" is eerily reminiscent of the many 1970's Gothic horror films that I'm sure most movie fans can recall. Not only does James Watkins do a masterful job of capturing an eerily creepy atmosphere reminiscent of great haunted house films, but the soundtrack plays perfectly to match the movie's more intense moments. Slowly pulling the audience in, as it starts off soft and slow, but as the story unfolds, we're slowly pulled into a frightening horror film that'll keep you on the edge of your seat.
I especially loved the authenticity of this movie, as everything seemed genuine to that time period. Plus, the creepy haunted house was perfectly laid out, as it dark enough to not allow us to see everything that was going on, but the lighting was up just enough to where we weren't left completely in the dark.
Overall, I have to say this is surprisingly one of the best haunted house horror films that I've seen in a good while, and it's definitely worth seeing in theaters at a rating of three out of four. Would I dare say it's the best scary movie that I've seen? Certainly not, but I think any true horror fan won't be disappointed with this movie.