BY JUSTIN ZARIAN
Rating: Two out of four stars
It is nice to see Daniel Radcliffe try to break the Harry Potter stigma, but maybe he should have looked before he leapt. Not to say “The Woman in Black” is a bad film, but there is really very little that is remarkable about it.
Set in Edwardian-era England, the story follows a young widower lawyer who must investigate an old house that gets him caught up in a mystery of a vengeful ghost. Or at least that is what imdb.com says because for most of the film it is unclear why he would stay at this house other than the film requires it. And apparently the house exists in its own country, based on how far away and alien it is, so why would you travel there everyday when you know there are ghosts there?
Even if they explained all of this, it still would not have been a great horror film. After an extremely boring first third of the film, we think we will actually get to some legitimate scares. That is when the movie pulls out the cheapest of cheap horror tricks: the jump scare. Will they make people jump? Yes, but that does not mean it is scary. It is just loud noises accompanied by mud coming out of a faucet or a raven coming out of nowhere. Only in the last third of the film did the jump scares disappear and genuine suspense began to match the chilling tone the gothic scenery and heavy use of fog created.
A real shortcoming, however, is Radcliffe. First of all, he looks too young to be the father of a 4-year-old (who is only there to telegraph a cop-out ending). More importantly, Radcliffe is really not selling the scares in the film. Not that he is a bad actor, but he is directed to not react to the events happening around him. He sees mud creatures coming out of the bed, a rocking chair moving with no one in it and numerous other spooky things. How does he respond? He is mildly curious! It never feels like he is threatened and it takes the audience out of the film.
There are some good things to say about this film. I did like Ciaran Hines as the older man who teams up with Radcliffe once children in the town fall victim to the ghost. He is a great character actor and added some weight to the experience. The art design and sets look nice; even with a fog cover so thick you need a machete to cut through it. And like I said, the film does get more suspenseful as it moves along, but by then it is too little too late.
I am still willing to give Radcliffe a chance for a post-Harry Potter career. He just needs something to test his acting skills more than this mostly forgettable film.