When you hear the name Hammer Films, actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing usually come to mind, along with films like Dracula or The Curse of Frankenstein. Hammer made solid, B-grade, horror movies in the late 50s that haunted an entire generation. The Woman in Black is a welcomed return to form for the studio, and it’s a stunning experience to witness.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a recently widowed London lawyer who has been sent to a small town to finalize the paperwork of a deceased client. When he arrives in town he is not welcomed and is advised to leave immediately. He ignores the warnings and carries on with his job. Then he begins to see a mysterious woman and people in town begin to die. Arthur becomes obsessed and attempts to get to the bottom of what the ghostly woman wants even though his own life is now in danger.
Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) and directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake), The Woman in Black is a slow burn that builds an enormous amount of tension along the way. Being set in the 19th century, it’s also a very atmospheric film and the cinematography, music, and lighting all add a great deal to the overall eeriness of it. This is a creepy movie and the hair on my arms stood up at times.
In his first role since playing Harry Potter, Radcliffe spends most of the film alone on screen and he owns the part and delivers a stellar performance. I was sold on him right from the start and never once did I think I was watching the kid who played the boy wizard. If he’s going to take varied roles like this with the rest of his career, there’s no doubt he’ll do just fine and be accepted by adults.
Ciarán Hinds as an eccentric rich man in town is also great in his performance and is a delight to watch, as is Janet McTeer as his grieving wife. These two pros add a level of sophistication to the film and help round out the story perfectly.
If you’re looking for blood and guts you won’t find it here. But if you want a solid story with fine acting and a lot of scares, The Woman in Black is a must-see.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds
Directed by: James Watkins
Top image: A scene from The Woman in Black. Courtesy Alliance Films.