The Woman in Black (review)

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The Woman in Black Daniel Radcliffe

I consider it a tremendous mark in favor of The Woman in Black that not once during its running time did I think, Hey, wait, wouldn’t Harry Potter have a spell to deal with this? Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) may be of too-tender years to be portraying even a young attorney, and certainly one who is already a widower and father to a small son, but that’s not so much a problem here. More of an issue is that his Arthur Kipps spends too damn much time lawyering… or, well, doing paperwork, anyway. He’s been sent from London to a tiny village in coastal England at the turn of the 20th century to close out the estate of an elderly, deceased client, only to discover that the townsfolk are terrified of him and are desperate for him to leave. Are they afraid he’ll disturb a ghost in that creepy old house on the creepy island beyond the creepy causeway that gets covered at creepy high tide? In between shuffling through the old lady’s papers he does get moderately spooked by glimpses of a spectral woman in black hovering around the remote estate — which is supposed to be entirely uninhabited — and we get a few mild spooks courtesy of ethereal silhouettes hovering in the background sneaking up on Kipps. Director James Watkins piles on the old-fashioned Hammer Horror atmosphere, all fog and mist and shadows, but a few jump-out-of-your-seat startles and a running motif about children doing something very terribly unnatural don’t add up to much. The film only comes alive when Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Janet McTeer (As You Like It) — as the local aristocrats with their own secrets — are onscreen. It’s when Radcliffe is most engaged with the goings-on, too.

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