Despite presence of Scary Potter, Woman in Black is a musty curio | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, February 3, 2012

Despite presence of Scary Potter, Woman in Black is a musty curio

Posted by Google on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Daniel Radcliffe as Scary Potter
  • CBS Films
  • Daniel Radcliffe as "Scary" Potter
The Woman in Black
** stars
Opens Friday (see times below)

The epochs of classic creature features and splatter fests have gradually given way to a contemporary horror film genre shaped by Asian influences and, more notably, the trappings of today’s technology. Starting with Hideo Nakata’s Ringu—a convenient, affecting marriage of these two influences—popular modern scare fare is the stuff of The Blair Witch Project and such progeny as Paranormal Activity. They’re the same chills and thrills, just filtered through the grainy prism of camcorder and surveillance monitors.

From this standpoint, The Woman in Black feels more like a musty curio than a standalone frightener. This adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 novel—already the basis for a West End theater production now approaching a run of 23 years—pays homage to the Gothic Hammer Horror films, not coincidental as it is the first feature shot in England under the until-recently dormant production banner in over thirty years.

Director James Watkins imbues every scene with the typical tropes: creepy kids, evil apparitions, a vine-covered manse, overgrown cemeteries and an array of spooky toys and music boxes. Shadows flutter about and objects jump out of nowhere, usually accompanied by a musical flourish. It’s all a handsome showcase that taps your sense of nostalgia more intensely than your adrenal gland.

Set in Victorian England, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a widower whose wife died four years ago while giving birth to their son (Misha Handley). Now a struggling solicitor and single dad, Kipps is dispatched to Crythin Gifford, a fictitious town on the east coast of Britain, to attend to the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow, a recently deceased recluse. There, Kipps finds a village of the damned as townsfolk grapple with an inexplicable epidemic of their children doing fatal harm to themselves.

Ignoring the warning of locals (natch), Kipps snakes his way down a meandering causeway to Drablow’s decrepit estate, an archetypal haunted house cut off from the mainland by the nocturnal high tide. Filmed on the 380-acre Osea Island in Essex, the evocative locale is, unfortunately, far more dynamic than its on-screen inhabitants.

After arriving, Kipps’ professional duties quickly take a backseat to wading into the mysterious death of a young boy years earlier. “Don’t go chasing shadows, Arthur,” warns Sam Dailey (Ciarán Hinds), a cynical local landowner. Of course, movies of this sort subsist off such folly, so Kipps not only chooses to stay overnight at the haunted mansion (cueing audience groans and guffaws), but he follows every sounds and opens every locked door, most notably the ghostly presence of the titular femme. There’s surprisingly little blood; the lone sight of crimson, gushing from the mouth of a doomed girl, stands out against a palette that’s as hoary as the horror precepts at play.

Radcliffe does well playing Scary Potter but is given little else to do—fans will have to make do seeing him again do battle with a pale-faced villain, visiting an ethereal rail station in the process. Hinds headlines a game supporting cast that includes Janet McTeer (Oscar-nominated for Albert Nobbs and Tumbleweeds) as Dailey’s grief-crazed wife. Their presence marks the only instances the film achieves anything approaching character complexity.

That said, Watkins crafts some striking visuals, and audiences pining for the visceral stimuli of an old-fashioned ghost story will occasionally jump out of their seats, at least until fifth or sixth time an empty rocking chair totters on its own or the woman-in-black’s ashen visage appears in a window pane or down a long corridor. Capped by a cloying climax, The Woman in Black quickly runs out of frights … and clichés.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It

Film Details

The Woman in Black
Rated PG-13 · 95 min. · 2012
Official Site: www.womaninblack.com
Director: James Watkins
Writer: Susan Hill
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, David Burke, Shaun Dooley, Alisa Khazanova, Sidney Johnston, Mary Stockley, Alexia Osborne and Aoife Doherty

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Woman in Black

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

She made me a peanut butter and banana sandwichwithout bread. Now that's art.

by Geoff Dunkak on ADF Review: Queering Objects and Decoding the Body in Cherdonna's Clock that Mug or Dusted (Arts)

Maybe the lack of young people in attendance is partly because of the way the NC Gay and Lesbian Film …

by Jonathan H on A Twenty-One-Year-Old Finds a Welcoming Space at the Twenty-Two-Year-Old N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Arts)

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation