'The Woman in Black' Review: Slack Tribute to the Hammer Horror Films of Yore
"The Woman in Black" reaches back into the horror-movie past, long before mad slashers and crazed gore frenzies infested the genre, to present us with an unapologetically old-fashioned haunted-house exercise.
The picture pays vivid tribute to the fog-choked byways and richly decorated interiors of the old Hammer horror films (and is in fact the first release by that newly resurrected studio after some 30 years of commercial hibernation). But it also partakes of the narcoleptic pacing that hobbled some of those old pictures, and so despite this movie’s stylish design and agreeably vintage frights, it is also, sad to report, kind of boring.
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The story is derived from a 1983 novel by Susan Hill that was previously adapted for British TV and radio, and has been running in a London stage version for more than 20 years. Clearly there’s an audience for this time-tested material; it only remains to be seen whether it’s an audience that also goes to the movies.
The setting is vaguely Victorian (although a briefly glimpsed newspaper story about Arthur Conan Doyle’s conversion to spiritualism would place it closer to the 1920s). Daniel Radcliffe, in his first post-"Potter" film role, plays Arthur Kipps, a morose young lawyer still shattered by the death of his wife in childbirth four years earlier. He is dispatched by his London office to the faraway village of Crythin Gifford, there to organize the estate of a recently deceased old woman. Arriving by train in the grim, unwelcoming village, he makes his way to her even grimmer residence—a dismal stone mansion situated in nearby marshlands at the end of a long road that’s submerged by high tides for many hours of each day.
Read the full review at Reason.com