The Woman in Black
(UK/Canada/Sweden, 95 min.)
Dir. James Watkins, Writ. Jane Goldman
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer.
A masterful exercise in atmosphere and tone, The Woman in Black has all the makings of a terrific horror film. With first-rate cinematography and a nifty sound design, The Woman in Black is a superior addition to the haunted house genre than the other recent spook-pic The Innkeepers. What the film has in form, however, it lacks in content.
Daniel Radcliffe stars as a young lawyer, father, and widower. Even from the point of view of someone who is immune to seeing him as Harry Potter, it is hard to see him as anything other than the young wizard. As a grieving widower, he looks fatally miscast. He gets the job one alright, but “alright” is the most I’d attribute to his work. Radcliffe also has the misfortune of being outshone by his co-stars in some scenes, especially Janet McTeer, who gleefully chews the scenery as a grieving woman who dresses her dogs and communicates with the dead. It’s almost worth the price of admission to see The Woman in Black just to appreciate how much McTeer submerses herself in her Oscar-nominated role in Albert Nobbs. The film also has an impressive pooch, who is easily an early candidate for a nomination at next year’s Golden Collar Awards.
As far as action goes, The Woman in Black basically offers the same few familiar sight tricks on a continuous loop. The film kills its own creepiness through repetition. One can only see the same ghostly face pop up in the top right-hand corner of the frame so many times before it ceases to cause a jolt. (About three times, I’d say.) Likewise, there is a limit to how long an empty rocking chair can swing back and forth, or how often a figure can appear standing still in a field/in a window, or how frequently a child’s toy can be framed spookily. (Although the use of reflected candlelight to create moving pupils in a monkey’s eyes is rather effective.) By repeating the same tricks over and over, The Woman in Black goes from scares to snores.
Just because I grew tired of watching the same thing repeatedly, however, does not mean that you should. Herewith, I present the Woman in Black Drinking Game so that you and friends can best enjoy the film to its full potential. (Note: The Woman in Black Drinking Game is not suitable for theatrical viewing…unless it’s at a licenced venue such as The Mayfair.)
Every time a ghost appears in a window, take a drink.
Every time a hand appears in a window, take a drink.
Every time a weird little shadow crosses the bottom corner of the frame, take a drink.
Every time the Woman in Black stands nonchalantly, take a drink.
Every time a toy is meant to be “scary,” take a drink. (Two if it’s a monkey.)
Every time the chair rocks, begin drinking and don’t stop until the rocking does too.
Every time Harry Potter walks slowly to the haunted bedroom, take a drink.
Every time Harry Potter’s dead wife appears, take a drink.
Every time Harry Potter gets a cryptic warning from one of the townsfolk, take a drink.
Every time you wish the film matched it’s production value, assign a drink to a friend.
Every time Janet McTeer hams it up, give her a salute and take a drink.
Every time a child dies, finish your drink and start a new one.
Enough? Well, it is for me. The only thing scary about The Woman in Black is the fact that I keep paying to watch second-rate crap like this.
Rating: ★★½ (out of ★★★★★)