Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Frank Review of "The Woman in Black" (2012)

The Short Version? The Victorian Ring
What Is It? Haunted House Spooktacular
Who Is In It? Harry Potter
Should I See It? Maybe

My girlfriend loves Harry Potter, and ghosts appear to be her horror of choice. I never had an interest in J.K. Rowling to begin with, which has grown into disdain with overexposure, and find most ghost stories terribly dull. I should also add that back in my childhood watching late night creature features, the least likely thing to hold my interest were the plodding British costume dramas from studios like Hammer.

Suffice to say that I entered The Woman in Black with very little enthusiasm, and perhaps as a result of low expectations, I actually quite enjoyed it. Holding true to Hammer tradition, the movie starts off slow, and the protagonist was such a straightlaced stiff that he's barely a character. He's just the instrument through which the audience is exposed to scary stuff. His background only exists to explain why he keeps involving himself in matters best left alone, up to the point of imperiling his young son in the requisite manner to build tension in the final act. As such, Daniel Radcliff is a decent enough audience proxy, whose stubble and sad dark eyes puts a bit of distance between this guy and The Boy Who Lived. Not a bravura performance, but not an embarrassment either. There is also good supporting work, but not so much that I feel compelled to google up credits at IMDb.

The real stars of the movie are the locations, sets, props and special effects. The direction is solid enough, but really, you're there for the atmosphere, the creeps, and the startles. This is a spooky story for the entire family that delivers for most sectors of the audience. These days, such a sure, effective effort deserves acknowledgement, even if it's more like turning in a satisfactory service evaluation that tossing roses onstage.

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