Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012) dir James Watkins

The reviews of The Woman in Black had been favorable for the most part - especially from reviewers I like and trust compared to the ones I don't (*cough* fuck the Austin Chronicle) - and I'll give any haunted house movie a shot.  My interest was piqued by the trailer and the setting more than the cast or director James Watkins, whose other directorial endeavour Eden Lake (2008) I haven't seen simply because it looks kind of boring - urban couple versus gang of kids (but it does star Michael Fassbender).  Watkins also wrote the script for The Descent 2 which was shockingly good as a sequel.  I know a lot of people made noise about Daniel Radcliffe being in a horror movie.  Not being much of Harry Potter fan I didn't give a shit.

So my one of my horror movie buddies came over the other night and we watched it.  I hadn't known that it was a Hammer Films production and that made me very, very happy.  If you're not familiar with Hammer Films then click the link and educate yourself.  Also Ciaran Hinds showed up and I'm kind of a huge fan of his.  Do yourself a favor and check out his performance in the Irish ghost movie The Eclipse (2009)

The movie is excellently produced and shot, a top notch old school Hammer Film.  In true classic style (and the mark of a quality haunted house movie) the house is a central character in the story.  There's a heavy sense of foreboding and menace over the entire film.  The scares are kind of refreshing in their simple classic style-remember the banging in The Haunting (1963)?  Yeah, that kind of scare.  There are a couple of jump scares but they work.  The eponymous Woman is the dark figure standing at the end of the bed.  If you let your munchkins watch this movie it will freak their shit out (if they have the patience to sit through it).  The suspense starts from damn near the get-go and really kicks into gear once Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps reaches the creepy British hamlet (again a classic set-up for English horror).  As a Hammer film The Woman in Black works well.  I look forward to more modern Hammer flicks.

If there's a downside to the movie, I'm afraid it's Radcliffe's vaguely twitchy performance.  Maybe it's because I kept expecting Peter Cushing to suddenly appear and say, I got this.  Go make a romantic comedy, kid.  A majority of the reviewers I read mention Radcliffe's age as a detriment.  I don't think it's Radcliffe's age - the role is made for a man approaching middle age, if not middle aged.  Imagine Ryan O'Neal in George C Scott's role in The Changeling (1980) - one of the best haunted house movies ever made.  It just wouldn't work.  I'm not saying Radcliffe (or any of the cast) turned in a poor performance.  I just think the movie could of had more of an impact with an actor who could have sold the role.

All in all definitely worth watching with the lights out on a dark and stormy night.

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