Daniel Radcliffe warned fans before watching his new movie The Woman in Black at the Los Angeles premiere: “I hope you enjoy screaming, or if not, I hope you enjoy laughing at other people screaming.”
True to his words, this British horror film will leave you terrified.
Based on a novel and play adaptation of the same title, The Woman in Black gives audiences a taste of a classic British horror story. After an old widow dies alone in her isolated home on the marshes, a solicitor named Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is sent out from London to assess the mountain of documents she left behind.
Upon arriving in the village, Kipps discovers grief-stricken, superstitious townspeople, most of whom are unwilling to even transport him to the widow’s home: Eel Marsh House. After seeing the shadow of a woman lurking about the house and witnessing the deaths of several children in the town, Kipps begins to realize there is something evil living in the house on the marshes.
The Woman in Black portrays a classic ghost story and a classic style of horror genre filmmaking. Instead of the bloody gore and violence seen in most blockbuster horror films today, The Woman in Black relies more on mysterious off-screen noises and slowly creeping shadows to keep viewers on edge. A rocking chair moving on its own, a plethora of noisy and disturbing children’s toys and ever-present lurking phantoms not only shock the audience, but also keep them in a state of suspense throughout the film.
That is not to say that The Woman in Black is easy to handle for those with an aversion to graphic content. On the contrary, there are moments in the film that will inspire many viewers to cover their eyes.
The disturbing deaths of children who are shown coughing up blood or even burning alive are scattered throughout the film. Images of muddy, grotesque figures crawling from the marshes and the gaunt white faces of the dead will haunt viewers long after the film has ended.
Though the film begins and sometimes moves slowly in terms of story progression, the slow pace helps amplify the tension and is actually more beneficial than detrimental. Long, lingering takes effectively serve to keep audience members on the edge of their seats, guessing what’s coming next.
The camera is precisely placed and moved during many shots to highlight ominous spaces as well as the often-moving shadows obscured in the backgrounds of the scenes. The cinematography is critical to this film: One of the most suspenseful scenes in the entire movie involves the camera giving the audience a unique perspective, letting it see through the eyes of the woman in black herself as she ever-so-slowly inches toward the back of Kipps’ sleeping form.
For Radcliffe, this film introduces him to the world as more than the actor at the core of the Harry Potter series. The fact that viewers won’t spend the entire film seeing Radcliffe as the young wizard they have come to cherish is a testament to the lead actor’s growth, especially considering how much time he spends alone onscreen.
Almost a third of the film is spent with Radcliffe in the dark corners of Eel Marsh House, and his performance is compelling enough to carry it. Radcliffe effectively portrays the complicated emotions of a father and a widower, battling inner and external demons with skill.
Though many ghost stories tend to end with some sort of resolution, The Woman in Black offers viewers no such comfort. Though the main characters work tirelessly to bring the tormented woman to peace, the audience leaves the theater with the same tension felt throughout the film.
The Woman in Black is a refreshing example of old-school horror — a style not based on gore but on genuine terror and suspense. With an outstanding performance by Daniel Radcliffe, this movie is perfect, as the actor said, for those who love to scream.
The Woman in Black will leave viewers haunted, confronting shadows in the safety of their own homes.