Daniel Radcliffe had his first big-boy movie role this weekend in “The Woman in Black,” but it wasn’t quite enough to help the young actor outgrow his wizard shoes.
In fact, the film should really just be called “Harry Potter and the Haunted House.”
The plot revolves around a very somber and downhearted Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a widower father and lawyer who travels to the small English coastal town Crythin Gifford to settle the late Alice Drablow’s estate. What he doesn’t know is that an evil spirit looking for revenge against young children haunts the village, and Arthur’s arrival resurrects all of the terror the residents thought was finally over.
Radcliffe’s first appearance without a lightening scar on his forehead was not a bad one, but Potter fans are lying if they say they weren’t waiting for the door-unlocking spell on at least one occasion. Much of the actor’s time is spent scouring the same hallways and entering and re-entering rooms trying to find the source of all the whispers and banging. He spends just as much time keeping a solemn look and uttering very few lines when the haunted house is involved. While this makes for adequate suspense, the producers could have gotten a little more creative with his character.
It’s almost as though they didn’t know what to do with Harry Potter if his pals Ron and Hermione weren’t going to be there with him.
As far as the film’s scare tactics go, there are a few good jumpers. Once viewers get past the first 45 minutes of buildup, the frightening moments come one right after another, and it becomes a choice between the lesser of two evils to either keep watching or look away. Looking away wouldn’t be the worst choice in the world, though, because there is enough screeching and clanking to give the audience a more-than-good enough idea of what’s happening in the house.
Even though it’s fairly standard for a scary movie to have darker-than-normal lighting, this movie works it well. There are several occasions where viewers could easily miss the woman in black if they aren’t looking in the right place, and that helped tremendously with the film’s scare factor.
It was also commendable for screenwriter Jane Goldman to assume that not every audience member is too dense to understand a storyline. There’s no drawn-out conversation between any two characters to explain the plot’s every detail, nor are there any out-of-place scenes to explain the woman in black’s history and reason for revenge. That made the house scenes worth much more than simply waiting for the woman to surface and cause trouble, and the final scene couldn’t have been nearly as bittersweet if it were any other way.
There are a couple ridiculous clichés that bear mentioning, though. First off, it’s completely poor judgment on Kipps’s part to think a lonely house surrounded by a very active tide and covered in vines is a good one to stay overnight in, no matter if his work was there or not. Also, the woman in black’s shrieking was convincing the first time around but just became more bothersome with each ear-splitting screech. We get it. The volume knob works.
For a modern horror movie, though, this one is a keeper. It’s not the best one out, but it will absolutely get your date throwing popcorn in the air and jumping into your arms for security. Just be sure to have those hands ready to cover your eyes, because it is definitely likely to happen at least once.