Rebecca Paul finds the latest from Hammer Films 'a truly frightening ghost story'.
A widowed lawyer leaves his young son for an isolated and eerie manor house to organise the estate of the Drablow family. A curious and intensely sinister story unfolds as we learn the family’s secrets and the vicious legacy of the Woman in Black.
The Woman in Black is an old fashioned ghost story. No gore, no twisted plot, no half-naked teenagers. Instead the movie, like the book, relies on the sinister, the paranormal and most importantly, it’s left up to us to decide how frightening the vicious spectre really is. It’s what we don’t see that terrifies us. The vastness of the dreary causeway and the intense isolation of Eel Marsh house are visually rich so fans of the book will not be disappointed. The main foyer, staircase, upper hallway and nursery are really the only rooms presented to us in any detail and the rest of the house is left to our imagination. Finally a film that realises it’s what we don’t see that scares us. Rhythmic thuds, fleeting shadows, foggy apparitions, darting eye movements and murky reflections allow us to piece together this ominous character.
Of course The Woman must appear to us at some point and by and large this is frightening and skilfully done.
A surprisingly fun aspect of the film is the treatment of the paranormal itself as Kipps (Radcliffe) openly discusses his scepticism with a kindly villager he befriends. Radcliffe’s first film role since Potter, he plays the role well enough but there are moments when his speech and movements feel deliberate and he seems to lack emotional range.
As the story reaches its climax and all seems to be resolved, the ending feels too abrupt and the creeping sense of pace so well established throughout the film is lost.
All in, The Woman in Black is a sinister tale, beautifully furnished and carefully crafted to draw us in to a truly frightening ghost story.