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The Woman in Black

UK / Canada / Sweden 2012
produced by
Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes, Brian Oliver, Tobin Armbrust (executive), Neil Dunn (executive), Guy East (executive), Roy Lee (executive), Xavier Marchand (executive), Marc Schipper (executive), Nigel Sinclair (executive), Tyler Thompson (executive) for Hammer, Cross Creek Pictures, Alliance Films, UK Film Council, Talisman Productions, Exclusive Media Group
directed by James Watkins
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Tim McMullan, Janet McTeer, Cathy Sara, Jessica Raine, Misha Handley, Roger Allam, Aoife Doherty, Sophie Stuckey, Andy Robb, Shaun Dooley, Mary Stockley, Alfie Field, Alexia Osborne, William Tobin, Victor McGuire, Daniel Cerqueira, Liz White, Alisa Khazanova, Ashley Foster, David Burke, Sidney Johnston, Lucy May Barker, Indira Ainger, Emma Shorey, Molly Harmon, Ellisa Walker-Reid
screenplay by Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill, music by Marco Beltrami

review by
Mike Haberfelner




Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young lawyer suffering from depression over the loss of his wife (Sophie Stuckey) on one hand, and underperforming at his job at the other, is given a final warning by his boss and is tasked with going through the paperwork of a deceased client, in some mansion in the middle of the marsh in a small village in the middle of nowhere. At the village, Kipps isn't really welcome, first he has problems getting a room at the hotel he has been booked into, then Mr Jerome (Tim McMullan), the local solicitor he was supposed to work with, wants to hand him only scraps of the paperwork and ship him back to London, the sooner the better - but Kipps perseveres, and eventually has someone take him to the mansion, which is usually shunned by the locals. The mansion itself is spooky enough, and eventually Kipps sees a woman in black and witnesses a tragic accident where a whole coach vanishes into the marsh. He tries to report this to the police, but the constable doesn't believe him as he insists nobody would go to the marsh, let alone be found near the mansion. Also at the police station, a little girl (Alexia Osborne) dies in his arms. Somehow the villagers seem to make him responsible for the death, just because he has been at the mansion and seen the woman in black - all but Sam Daily (Ciarán Hinds), who offers him his hospitality and proves himself to be a bit shocked by local superstitions, even if his wife (Janet McTeer) seems to be a firm believer. Now the truth behind it all is that the region has seen especially many lethal accidents concerning children (even the Dailys'), and these occur every time someone sees the woman in black - as Kipps did.

Kipps is undeterred, and he returns to the mansion - only to suffer a night of pure terror. But he finds out some things about the woman in black, like she was once an occupant of the house, and back in the day, her boy was taken from her and later died in a coach accident in the marshs (the one Kipps thought he had witnessed), and since wants to have her revenge on the locals (who were instrumental in her boy been taken) - so he and Daily figure if only she could be reunited with her son (whose body has been left in the marsh as it seemed impossible to recover at the time), things might be alright again. Of course, all of this is easier said than done ...

 

Back when, The Woman in Black was announced as veteran film studio Hammer's return to gothic horror, and of course, the film ticks all the boxes to live up to this claim, including telling an old-fashioned story in a very traditional way with a heavy emphasis on atmosphere. Thing is, the movie is really over-achieving, throwing a few too many elements that make gothic horror into it to remain coherent. The outcome is a film that takes quite a bit of time to find its story and to be spooky for all the right reasons. It's really just too much of everything, with many scenes that make no or only limited narrative sense, and sequences that really work counterproductive to the narrative flow.

That said, the film's by no means all bad, the landscapes and locations are first rate, direction and camerawork are solid, and the ensemble cast's first rate for sure. One would just wish for a better, and indeed less generic, screenplay.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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