Warning: I actually don’t watch many horror films so my review might not reflect that of a seasoned horror movie pro.
Warning: I actually don’t watch many horror films so my review might not reflect that of a seasoned horror movie pro. The reason I don’t watch scary films is because generally they are not that good. By ‘good’ I mean the plotline, acting, directing, music, believability, everything that separates The King’s Speech from Wild Wild West. And to be honest I think Hollywood agrees with me. The ‘horror’ genre is like the hooker of the film industry; not in it for the critical acclaim or Oscars, just some cheap thrills and hard cash.
Of course there are many exceptions, the ‘classic’ horror films: Silence of the Lambs, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Jaws, The 6th Sense, The Exorcist, Alien, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Shining, The Blair Witch Project. These films show us that horror films can be well acted, well scripted, original AND shit-your-pants scary. They are great films that are scary and not just scary films.
But I digress, the point is I don’t really watch the horror films of today like The Human Centipede, Paranormal Activity 2 and the millionth Friday the 13th. I prefer to leave the cinema with my seat free of urine and actually having watched something either entertaining or educating, ideally both.
But I changed my usual pattern and went to see The Woman in Black. Why?
1. To see Daniel Radcliffe not being Harry Potter.
2. It is based on a book made in to a hugely successful play, which must mean there is something to it.
That was all I knew when I went to see The Woman in Black so I shall review on those two points.
Firstly, an evaluation of Radcliffe who plays Arthur Kipps. Interestingly, Kipps is not that dramatically different from Harry Potter. Both are tortured, grieving souls, who spend a lot of their time looking confused and scared whilst grappling with an evil power. So to those expecting Radcliffe’s giant leap into a new realm of cinema, I think you will be disappointed. Having said that, Radcliffe plays his part well within the bare dialogue. He is convincing, endearing and most importantly for a horror film; we are on his side. To feel genuine fear in a horror film, we have to invest in the character and desire his safety and triumph against the baddy, which is pretty easy to do with Daniel Radcliffe. We don’t want that freaky shadow lady to get Harry Potter!
Secondly, there is definitely something to the narrative of The Woman in Black which has made the play so special and successful. It is a nostalgic return to old-school chills and thrills: cobwebs, creaks, shadows, haunted houses, unnecessarily creepy children’s toys, gloomy villages, candles guttering out and ultimately the fear of the unknown, the unseen, the bang on the other side of the house which makes your imagination run wild. No need for guts and gore, rape, torture and monsters. A proper haunted house can still freak out an entire audience. I knew I would be a coward so I watched the crowd to gage how normal, brave people react and aha it wasn’t just me cowering into the seat!
Despite Radcliffe’s first foray out of Hogwarts and the return of old-school horror imagery, it is hard to pick out any other enduring features of the film. The Woman in Black will no doubt be successful at the box office and it deserves to be. It is a neat little horror film with at least 10 jumps (I lost count) and a good transition film for an actor who has grown up as one of the most famous characters of all time. But The Woman in Black will not be an addition to the films listed above, it is no ‘classic’ that petrified an entire generation. But it is still shit-your-pants scary.