Movie Review: The Woman in Black

PG-13 Horror usually isn’t my thing. I find the audiences to be mostly immature teens taking full advantage of the fact that they can get into a serious movie that adults are also viewing. But the audience alone doesn’t deter me; when I think of PG-13 Horror, I think of a watered-down piece of cheap-scare crap that doesn’t have a cinematic soul. It’s guaranteed to have been cut-down from it’s original R-rating so the aforementioned kids can get in, therefore making triple the profit and extremely lacking in quality. Does Woman in Black follow in the tradition of PG-13 Horror? Not entirely.

The film begins as Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a lawyer who has to leave his young son to go to this creepy town to finalize paperwork that somehow involves this gigantic, creepy house. There’s a woman who (ta-daa!) dresses in black and seems to scare the doo-doo (yes, I went there) out of the town-folk whenever brought up. That is literally all I can tell you before I start giving things away. From there on out, the title character endlessly terrorizes our protagonist while weird images and shadows are seen throughout. You know the drill.

The “plot” I just laid out isn’t to be mocking, it’s just that we know how these things go: A “who cares” set up is given so we can get our hero into his mess. The question isn’t so much “What’s the story?” so much as it is “How freaky is it?” And I have to give the filmmakers credit where credit is due: our villains are cliched in their design, yet not in their delivery. I didn’t know too much going in, so I’m not going to spoil much here. I will say that I’m glad that when the terrorizing starts, they’re not cheap. I’m pretty sure I counted a total of two cheap scares (Aah! A small animal jumps in the way when we’re focused on something else! Eek! The next scene starts loudly and abruptly!). The rest of the weirdness is pretty legitimate. A dark face looking down on us from a window in a supposedly empty house becomes extremely eerie. A small figure crawling out of the mud in a torrential downpour is pretty strange altogether. I looked at them as punches that weren’t constantly being pulled.

If you’re wondering how good of a job Radcliffe played from someone who doesn’t care about Harry Potter (I just couldn’t ever do it), I can honestly say he does his part well. On one hand, I could say there wasn’t much to the role but on the other hand, I think of one scene I liked in particular that showcases his talent. A loud banging noise is going on in a locked room as Radcliffe tries desperately to open the door; heading downstairs, he grabs a hatchet and rushes back, ready to hack his way in…only to find that the banging is still going on but the door is now open. Radcliffe’s expression is great as we can see his face become even more pale in silent fear, realizing he should have been careful what he wished for. I don’t see him as Harry Potter like most people will I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to refer to him as that in this article. I think most will agree that he doens’t come off as “The Boy who Lived” in this so much as he does “The Guy who wanted to do something besides Harry Potter.” Subtle things are done well here and the house in the marsh is a cool, but the watery pathway that leads to it is a character in itself. I also enjoy it anytime a male is the lead in a horror movie. Yes, it’s a given that we should feel sorry for the main woman in peril, but taking a male who is thought of as being the tough, rational type and having him fear for his life gives a whole new spin on the genre. Maybe that’s why I liked The Thing (1982) so much.

The problem here is that the first thirty to forty-five minutes are just boring. Kipps goes here in the rain. Kipps goes there in the mud. After a while of wording it like that, I start to think of it like a children’s book written by Tim Burton. While I want to defend it by saying that it has to be that way, lulling you into a false sense of security until POW! The movie REALLY starts! But that’s a trite stereotype we’ve grown used to in movies like this. Not every scene has to be crap-yourself scary but it doesn’t have to be mind-numbingly slow either. Better balanced movies have had me entertained even when the shark/ monster/ demon isn’t present. I actually found myself falling asleep in a couple parts. There’s also the ending which had me confused and while I won’t necessarily say why here, I will say that it left me with a few questions I don’ think the filmmakers even had in mind or maybe just didn’t care to answer. They had an ending and to a lot of people, it’s all about the ending. And it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

Great scenery, good acting, and even better costume design (I wouldn’t normally bring it up, but three piece suits and pocketwatches are just cool), this movie has a lot going for it and destroys the competition when it comes to many other PG-13 dreck, but better pacing and a better ending would have done a lot more for as the viewer.

Plays like: Insidious (2011)/ The Haunting (1999)

GRADE: C

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One Response to “Movie Review: The Woman in Black”

  1. Great review thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.

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