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The Woman in Black (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
The Woman in Black (DVD)
Advantages: Radcliffe, Watkins and the atmosphere
Disadvantages: Bit of a quick ending, left me slightly unsatisfied
I have to say I wasn't disappointed. The plot is somewhat simple and not unfamiliar to start with. Daniel Radcliffe, forever to be known as The Boy Who Lived, takes teh starring role. Leaving his son with the nanny, widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps is sent north from London to see through the paperwork of the will of a recently deceased lady in a sinister village and an even more sinister house on the marshes. When he gets there, he is shunned by the villagers, who make every attempt to turn him on his heel and send him straight home. All except one, local landowner Sam Daily, who aids Arthur getting to the house and then sorting the mess there.
And this is where it all gets a bit sinister. Aside from the nervous nature of the villagers and the hostility, there is a 'presence' at the house that is instantly very creepy for us as viewers. A mysterious figure keeps appearing, and although Kipps sees this figure only intermittently, the stories from the village and the strange noises are enough for him to flirt with giving up and going home. Only the threat of losing his job and not being able to provide for his son keeps him going. It's a thin thread of nerves waiting to be shattered.
What I liked about this film, and about the adaptation from Jane Goldman and direction from James Watkins was the pace. It's a very slow film, but the music and noises and lack of dialogue make it the perfect speed. It's definitely a visual film, and in this respect it's probably why I enjoyed watching Daniel Radcliffe in the main role as Kipps. I found his vocal acting to be rather wooden at times in the Harry Potter films, if I'm honest, and I wasn't sure how well he would do as the main role in a film which doesn't really feature many other characters. However, having spent many a year on a broomstick being chased by Bludgers and evil Dark Lords, Radcliffe's facial acting and timing is certainly an impressive feature of his talents.
His acting is very solid and I thought his performance of the role was extremely believable. You soon forget about Harry Potter and see him as Kipps, while the other roles in the film stand equally as unique despite the occasional recognisable actor or actress. Yet the acting sort of plays second fiddle to the tale and the visual effects. Watkins take Goldman's screenplay and makes the most of it, using reflection and light and focus in near perfection at times, the sudden yet slight movements in the corner of your screen or a quick shape shifting across a narrow angle in a mirror all add to a tense atmosphere indeed, one which soon gets you forgetting about anything else other than the screen you're watching. The steady strings in the music are haunting at times and make the atmosphere even darker.
In terms of constant horror, the Hammer name relies here on the occasional glimpse, unexplained happening, moving furniture and the threat of something terrible turning up on screen more than actual in your face horror. However, even when you know something is about to happen (and there are a few moments like this), you still jump quite a bit in the film. I was very surprised to see that this is a 12A, and would have rated it as a 15 easily. Perhaps I'm getting a bit soft and it's more about the jumpy nature of the film as opposed to the gory gruesome horror films, but I thought this was one of the scariest in terms of the unknown since I last watched Doctor Who episodes with the Weeping Angels (freaky stuff!).
Either way, this is an atmospheric and patient film that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's not without its flaws, and the way the plot was adapted didn't really leave much for an elaborate or even satisfactory ending as far as I was concerned, and it was all over a bit too quick once the end was in sight. The surprise twist was a bit predictable, although I didn't feel it detracted from my enjoyment of the film on the whole. I was impressed by Radcliffe above all else, and if there's one thing I shall take from the film it's the mature approach he and director Watkins took in delivering an impressive film worthy of the Hammer name.
Summary: Very good modern Hammer horror