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Horror becomes reality in Daniel Radcliffe's first non-Harry Potter feature film

By Bryan C. Kuriawa
On March 1, 2012

  • The flyer for “Computer Games and History” at the University of South Carolina. Kotaku.com

In the early years of the 20th century, in the English Countryside, a nightmarish ordeal is occurring. Since the death of a local resident, Jennet Humfrye and her son Nathaniel, various children of the community's residents have mysteriously died, after committing a suicidal act without any warning, except for the appearance of an unknown woman in black.

Summoned to handle the affairs of the Humfrye estate, a young lawyer by the name of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) finds himself at odds with the locals and finds many of them uncooperative, with the exception of a wealthy landowner named Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds). Yet as Kipps begins to spend more time in the village and the Humfrye home, he will discover that even the superstitious rumors may have some truth to them.

Developed by Hammer Studios, known for their gothic horror features of the late 20th century, and featuring "Harry Potter"  himself, in a role distant to his iconic character, "The Woman in Black" arrives on screens as one of the more unique horror features to arrive during a winter release season. With Daniel Radcliffe as its lead, and an excellent emphasis on atmosphere and style by director James Watkins, Hammer Studios creates one of the most suspenseful and creative films so far this year.

The cast is superb, with many of the performers contributing well to both their characters, and their individual direction. Radcliffe, considerably restrained in his comparison to his more iconic role, is excellent as a man who attempts to discover the mystery behind the Humfrye family.

Supporting Radcliffe, Hinds is commendable as the voice of reason when compared to Radcliffe and his character's uncertainty and speculation.

Director James Watkins is excellent in his direction, capturing all of the onscreen action, and successfully creating an isolated, yet distinctly frightening atmosphere. His camera work, while it ranges considerably, succeeds in establishing the village and the areas around it in an almost uncertain tone, where fear largely controls the population, and the residents' children are at the most risk.

Adding to the direction is a well-composed screenplay by writer Jane Goldman, and based on Susan Hill's novel, which captures the struggles of Radcliffe's character, without losing any of the atmospheres.

Underneath the film's many successes, there are a series of faults throughout. The largest fault is the film's lack of supporting characters in its narrative.

While Hinds and McTeers contribute well-developed performances, their supporting roles are largely restricted to a few key plot-related scenes, and a large majority is devoted to Radcliffe's character.

Overall, "The Woman in Black," while faulted, is an interesting and well-developed horror film from one of the world's most famous horror studios. With an excellent performance from Radcliffe and superb atmospheric direction, it is a feature that will linger long in your mind.

 

Final Rating: 8/10


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