Review: The Woman In Black

daniel cohen reviews the new horror flick starring Daniel Radcliffe …

Plot: Set in England in the early 1900s, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer who recently lost his wife (Sophie Stuckey), and is left with his only son Joseph (Misha Handley). Arthur travels to a small town to look over paperwork of a deceased woman’s isolated house that is rumored to hold a terrible spirit that is the cause of children dying throughout the town.

If you’re going to see this movie, make sure you get a venti latte from Starbucks beforehand. This is slow, slow, slow, and slow. It’s a solid and well defined premise, but when your entire second act consists of the protagonist walking around a house with no dialogue, that’s an issue. And as much as I like Daniel Radcliffe, he’s not Tom Hanks in Castaway, alright.

But let’s talk about Daniel Radliffe. You may know him as the lead role in that small little indie franchise, Harry Potter. Radcliffe carries this movie pretty well though. When you play the same role for eight movies, it’s automatic you’re going to see nothing but Harry Potter, but he actually made me forget about that in this film. He’s engaging, empathetic, subtle, and most important of all — an easy guy to root for. And the fact that this is a sub-par movie altogether, and he’s able to elevate the material speaks volumes. He saves this movie quite a bit, and I’m interested to see where his career goes from here.

Radcliffe is clearly the highlight of the film. There are no other interesting characters at all. Everyone else is going through the motions, which just adds to the bland feel of this movie as a whole. But the reason why this movie is a yawn machine is because of what I mentioned earlier: the pacing.

What kills me is that this isn’t even that long of a movie. It’s a little over 90 minutes, and it’s still paced slowly?! That tells me that there really wasn’t a film here to begin with. While I like the premise, it’s also really predictable early on. So the whole thing is about some spirit being responsible for the death of children throughout this small village. And one of the biggest mysteries of the film is really easy to decipher, in fact, I called it in the very first scene of the entire movie. That’s not a good way to keep me interested in your story.

The first 15-20 minutes is a solid set-up — Arthur’s work is suffering because of his depression, he needs to do a good job with this assignment, or else he gets fired. He goes to the town, and people clearly don’t want him to investigate this freaky house. Solid enough, but once we get through the set-up, NOTHING HAPPENS! Arthur is just literally walking around this house for the majority of the film as a nuclear bomb of clichés descends onto the house. He’s walking around, and…someone’s turning the door knob, but uh-oh…nobody’s there. Wait, he’s walking around, and we start hearing innocent, but creepy music boxes playing, but…nothing happens. This goes on forever! This is the entire second act of the film, and the big conclusion of the second act is something we figured out about an hour ago.

Let’s compare this to another horror movie: Cloverfield. Now I know these are two completely different films, but both hold their ‘ace in the hole’ till the very end. The reason why Cloverfield works though is because there is actually interesting stuff happening that keeps you engaged. You aren’t just thinking about, ‘When the hell is this monster going to show up?’ In this movie, because there is so little going on, you just want to get to the end, and don’t care about anything else. Cloverfield doesn’t just rely on its big ‘Wow,’ but this movie does.

And I’ll give credit to The Woman in Black for at least wanting me to know what happens. I still cared, even though I had to trek through rubbles of nothingness. And the third act does pick up. There’s a very tense scene in the marshlands that wakes you up. But even its third act is excruciatingly drawn out, and the end is really bad. They take the easy road out of this, and it almost discredits the entire film.

The movie is salvaged a little bit by Radcliffe’s performance, but the weak script and ‘meh’ directing (James Watkins — The Descent) make this pretty forgettable. I was also bored out of my mind in the middle of the film, and that alone is just unforgivable.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Barely Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

1 COMMENT

  1. Sad to see such a low opinion of this movie. I think it got back to the roots of suspense and did it without the need for constant dialogue by nervous characters. I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed your review even though we disagree.