Today: July 17, 2024
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Woman in Black, The

Given the massive success of stage to screen adaptations over the past five years it was inevitable that studios would turn from the garish light of the Hairsprays and Mama Mias and find more sinister source material.

Given the massive
success of stage to screen adaptations over the past five years it was
inevitable that studios would turn from the garish light of the Hairsprays and
Mama Mias and find more sinister source material.
Deemed the most
terrifying live experience in the world, Stephen
Mallatratt’s
stage adaptation of Susan
Hill
’s The Woman in Black seemed destined for the screen and, with horror
fanatics tiring of torture porn and slasher sequels, now is an ideal time to
bring a little traditional haunting back to the genre.

Straight outta Hogwarts and filling the heavy boots of
mourning solicitor Arthur Kipps is Daniel
Radcliffe
, carefully selecting this home-grown horror as his first lead
role outside of the franchise. Director James
Watkins
also proves a good choice having popped out some nasty offerings in
his career from taught terror My Little
Eye
to couple’s retreat turned hellish Eden
Lake
.

Despite the assuring line up the first half hour of the
feature is doubtful. Radcliffe first up is a father, a deceiving title given
his inescapably youthful disposition. Having lost his wife in childbirth, young
Mr Kipps must take a well-paid mystery trip to the manor of a deceased client
out by the coast to provide for said spawn. On arrival a wave of clichés meets
the outsider; closed doors to the face, grumbles of “argh no one’s been there
in years” and a general absence of hospitality, bar wealthy local Mr Daily (a
dutifully sincere Ciarán Hinds.) These are admittedly necessary but dreary
nonetheless.

The good stuff of course kicks in when Kipps lands at the
manor and Watkin’s talent rears its head. Scares are executed with precision
and the ratio of slow insinuation and full-blown terror will keep you
pleasurably unsettled for the bulk of the 95 minutes. Radcliffe’s grim
demeanour and translucent complexion are ideal for Kipps as he quietly unravels
the dismal events that have led to the haunting of the house and violent demise
of the town’s children (would you believe they’re linked?)

With both the play and centuries worth of children’s ghost
stories it is impossible not to be familiar with the tale of a bitter woman
bent on revenge. Watkins does nothing to avoid this and instead packs such a
punch that you pre-empt the shocks and startles and still jump four inches in
the air. Human incineration, bodies in marshes, even women in black, the horror
fan will have seen them numerous times and still a feeling of unease is
consistently present. Maybe it’s that in light of the relentless determination
to shock of the contemporary horror film that we beg for a little subtlety. Bar
a grizzly projectile encounter with a little girl there is not a drop of blood
spilled, no guns or knives or attacks.

Areas of the feature are patchy, the script though not too
important could have been meatier and some weaker strands of the plot desired
more attention, but while The Woman in Black is not perfect, it is welcome.

Beth Webb - Events Editor

I aim to bring you a round up of the best film events in the UK, no matter where you are or what your preference. For live coverage of events across London, follow @FilmJuice

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