Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review - "The Woman In Black"

 Just posted on Rotten Tomatoes:

"To say that 'The Woman In Black' captures the spirit of either the book or the stage show that came before it would be both incorrect and secondary to the fact that this film encapsulates the Hammer Horror style. The Gothic, carefully structured set design and cinematography speak of the old haunted houses of the 1930s. While the constant leaps and jumps created by the shock horror and quick reactions are of typical Hammer brand, they maintain a certain detachment from the film, even in the cinema environment. You will not be as engrossed as you would be with either the book or the stage show, but the film is most certainly still worth a watch.

From the opening scene, where three children go from playing with their toys to walking out of a window in slightly comedic fashion, the film sets a system of having almost every element correct, but never quite. The initial theme is introduced, a brilliantly subtle piece reprised throughout the film, and we are shown only the back of the Woman in Black's head. Unfortunately, it is too much too soon to be shown such power. The audience haven't been shown enough to believe the titular character capable of this, and so it becomes a slightly ludicrous scene.

Daniel Radcliffe takes on the main role of Arthur Kipps; a difficult role to take due to the fact that this is largely a one man show. Each member of the supporting cast feels written for purpose, which works wonderfully in the stage show because it suggests that this is the case. In the film however, while every character has their differences, they are subtle, and undermined by the fact that each person there seems to be of the same opinion, go through the same situations and encounter the same problems. Ciarán Hinds, portraying what could be consider the main supporting role of Mr. Daily, is the only one who seems to be evasive of this, but his character development leaves him rather directly to it.

The immediate problem facing Daniel Radcliffe is that of Harry Potter's shadow. While traipsing through the Gothic mansion that holds host to the Woman in Black herself, the audience will come in with the pre-conceived memories of the recently concluded Potter series.

With that in mind, reviews of Radcliffe's performance can only be positive. His age is apt, his sense of self-defeat as clear as that of Brad Pitt in Interview With The Vampire and his reactions strike a near perfect resonance with those of the audience. Certain moments, sometimes in cinematography - for example, with a door opening behind young Kipps while he reads some papers - and sometimes in Special Effects - for example, his face changing in the window to a screaming woman - stand out from the rest as truly terrifying moments. Sadly, the entire film seems unsure as to whether to be subtle in creating fear, or blatant in creating a shock.

Throughout the experience though, there always seems to be something missing. Perhaps this is in the atmosphere, or perhaps the titular character simply does not inspire fear by lingering in dark corners and looking through windows. The sad thing is that all of the necessary elements seem to be correct, but, for once, perhaps Hammer Horror have made a film that's ever so slightly patronising to their audience.

Perhaps we've evolved past cheap thrills and shocks, and the cerebral nature of both the book and the stage show is sadly lacking. In getting everything right for film, The Woman In Black has, unfortunately, gotten it ever so slightly wrong."

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