HTS Moderator , Reviewer
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8723[/img]Title: The Woman in Black
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds
Directed by: James Watkins
Written by: Jane Goldman, Susan Hill
Studio: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
HTS Overall Score:74
It's been a while since I've seen a good ghost flick. "The Woman in Black" seemed to have the potential to be at least entertaining, and I was further drawn into seeing this film due to Daniel Radcliffe playing the lead. My interest was more out of morbid curiosity than any actual pull to see the actor himself: I felt curious to see whether he could pull off a more adult role, or whether he would be destined to be "Harry Potter" the rest of his life. Alas, a good ghost story we do not have. What we are left with is a quite PASSABLE story, (don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed the film on a popcorn level), though it was just polished fluff, And very polished it was, to say the least: the actors chosen were top notch, the production values were well done, and the story appeared rather intriguing. The problem we have here is that this story has been done before many, many times. It's the same classic ghost story where a man/woman has to bungle through a seemingly mysterious back story about a vengeful ghost taking lives. If that were not cliche enough, most of the thrills were what I lovingly call "jump scares." It's as if Hollywood thinks the viewer won't be scared with true thrills and terror, but needs auditory and visual "jumps" to keep them on the edge of their seats. I do admit that jump scares have their place and can be quite fun if used sparingly; however, when used for every....single....little...scare it can be quite predictable and tedious.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8724[/img]We start the film with a very creepy scene of three little girls playing house, only to walk over to the window in unison and toss themselves onto the pavement below. Immediately, we switch to our hero, a mousy little lawyer by the name of Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), who has lost his wife a few years back during childbirth. Living with his 4 year old son and a nanny, Mr. Kipps is tortured by the loss of his wife and barely keeping ahold of his job. The only saving grace for him is the fact that he is extremely thorough and his firm has need of him to handle the estate of Eel Marsh house in the country. Low and behold, once Mr. Kipps arrives at the village, we find out that this is the same village where those three girls threw themselves out the window.
Upon arriving at Eel Marsh house, Mr. Kipps sees a strange woman in black flicker into view and then mysteriously vanish just outside. When he gets back to the village, it's revealed that this woman is a piece of terrifying legend among the superstitious country folk. It seems that whenever this woman is seen, some child's death is soon to follow. Within hours of him returning, a young girl's life is taken in front of him. However, Arthur is determined to finish his work and goes back to Eel Marsh house despite the angry mob-like attitude of the scared villagers. As Kipps spends more and more time going through the documents in Eel Marsh house, he learns that there may be more to this legend than just superstition.
Again, "Woman in Black" is nothing special - mediocre at best - but the strong production values keep the film from falling into total inadequacy (it's amazing what you can do when you throw money at a film). Daniel Radcliffe carried the film in my opinion, and I was pleasantly surprised with his ability to take a character and completely vanish into the role. Though we have yet to see whether he has any staying power in the film market, I hope we see more of him in the future, and not just as Harry Potter. As for the movie in it's entirety: I hoped for something more, but its flaws are even more exemplified by being paired theatrically against "Cabin in the Wood", one of the most game-changing horror films in the last 10 years. When compared to Filet Mignon, a decent steak like "The Woman in Black" looks more like week old chuck in comparison.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8720[/img]Sony is well-known for giving us great transfers, and this one is no different. The outdoor scenes are absolutely stunning: lush rolling hills, deeply foggy marsh lands are crisp and clean with very little detail being lost despite drab feel of the film. There is a light greenish hue given to the entire film, but one must remember that this was a stylistic choice used to pull the viewer into a dreary and foreboding mood. Facial detail is fantastic, especially in the lighter scenes. You can see even the small razor burns on Daniel Radcliffe's newly grown beard and the ingrown hairs on his neck. However, there was one major video flaw that I don't know was intentional. There was a great amount of black crush going on with many of the inside scenes. More than once I found myself straining the eye to SEE a character when they went into a dark shadowed environment. Everything black just blurred together and all you could see were shapes. I don't know whether it was meant to have the characters lose themselves into the environment or whether the color timing was off, but either way, it made for some mild viewing frustration.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8721[/img]The audio for "The Woman in Black" was easily the highlight of the film. Sony outdid themselves this time. I know I keep saying this, but a well-BALANCED track is one of the first things I listen for in film. Vocals were clean and crisp, the only reason I ever had to switch to subtitles to hear something was because of the thicker British accents (I've always had to do that with British accents, for some reason). One of the great joys of watching a "creepy" ambiance filled horror movie is the effects. A creaking door, a rocking chair thudding against the floor as it moves, footsteps lightly stepping down the hallway - all of those can make or break a ghost flick. Thankfully for us, the director was on top of his game this time. My only complaint with the effects was that they were used for "jump scares" many times. While jump scares are fine for a ghost flick, they've been beaten to death and need to be used sparingly. Unfortunately for us, they were used often. And, of course, we have the crowd favorite: the bass was deep and rich, usually only coming in at the jump scare moments, so they were definitely impressive. No muddying of the sound occurred; there were actually a few moments that went so deep, I knew my sub had a hard time getting that low. Hairs were definitely raised, and my butt left the couch with some nice explosive sonic shocks.
• Audio Commentary
• Inside the Perfect Thriller: Making The Woman in Black
• No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps
"The Woman in Black" was predictable and by the numbers, but still had its fair share of truly creepy moments with "jump scares" working well in the ambiance of the situation. My expectations for this movie were met, and, fortunately, not disappointed - a predictable scare flick with entertainment enough for a night of relaxation in an otherwise recent dry spell of new releases hitting the shelves. I have to give kudos to Danielle Radcliffe, though. He impressed me greatly with his first MAJOR picture since his time at Hogwarts, enveloping himself into the role of Mr. Kipps so well that very rarely were you thinking "isn't that Harry Potter?". Overall, I'd give it a definite "rent" for everyone, except the most devoted horror fan.
Recommendation: Rent It