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The Woman In Black (2012)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Liz White, Janet McTeer, Shaun Dooley, Mary Stockley

Written By: Jane Goldman, Susan Hill (novel)

Directed By: James Watkins

The Shot

The Woman In Black is a rarity: a PG-13 rated horror movie that still delivers the creepy.  Classic style, modern presentation; I like it.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


It needs to be carefully and deliberately crafted to work, but the rewards are delicious.  Add some paprika for kick.

Pairs Well With...


Classic presentation.  Modern style.

“You don’t believe in this Spiritualism stuff, do you?”

When The Woman In Black first hit theatres, it did so with a heavy buzz.  Of course, next to none of the chatter had anything to do with the fact that an exceptionally popular horror novel (by someone other than Stephen King!) was finally hitting the big screen.  (There’d been a small screen adaptation over twenty years earlier.)  No; most of the talk was about the fact that Harry Potter (actor Daniel Radcliffe) was moving on to something other than Harry Potter.

But hey; buzz is buzz, right?

Indeed it is, and there’s no question that the buzz surrounding Daniel Radcliffe’s casting brought a significantly larger audience to see The Woman In Black than would otherwise have done so.  This is what the accountants call a “Marketing win.”  As for me, I call it an artistic win, because it brought a lot more people in to see a very good horror flick presented in classic style…

…but not entirely  in classic Hammer style, which is cause for a raised eyebrow or two, given that The Woman In Black is in part a Hammer production.  The exaggerated colors and buxom ladies that were staples of old school Hammer are absent here, but what is not absent is that other Hammer staple: an interesting screenplay directed in such a way as to bring out the most from every scary moment and to bring additional scariness even into the most innocuous of establishing shots and character portraits.  This is horror that’s not in a hurry; its atmosphere is allowed to build over time, and even though there certainly are hard scares (and tragic events) carefully spaced throughout, nothing ever feels rushed or carries any suspicion of having been “just tossed in to keep the audience awake.”  The horror follows the story, not the other way around, and that in turn makes the movie more accessible to and rewarding for those audiences who would not have come near a horror flick with a ten meter cattleprod were it not for the presence of the former Mr. Potter, and exceptionally good for the rest of us.

But what about Mr. Radcliffe, anyway?

In The Woman In Black, Daniel Radcliffe demonstrates his savvy as an actor entire (as opposed to a “star” only capable of shining in a single role).  He faces the delicate challenge of playing the leading role in a movie where, to be successful, he must also recognize the fact that he’s not the star; the creepy house and its title spirit get that distinction.  He’s just playing the human whose actions allow their story to come to the fore: a facilitator, as it were.   Many role-defined actors looking to escape their pigeonholes wouldn’t be able to handle such subtlety; Radcliffe, though, does exactly what he needs to in service of the bigger picture, and both he and the audience get to reap the rewards.  A power turn this isn’t, but it is a perfect performance of the role at hand.

I really want to tell you more about the story and how cool this lore is and how very, very effective the ending is and all of the interesting ways in which it can all be interpreted… but I will, of course, do no such thing.  That would be telling, and I’m certainly not about to spoil a story this interesting; especially not when I’m going to instead encourage you to experience it for yourself.  The Woman In Black is a movie out of time; an Edwardian story presented in the heavy-curtained style of the 1960s and 1970s, with the quality and production values of the 21st Century.  Classic style, modern presentation, great production design, effective scares – exceptionally effective scares that deliver the creepy without needing to bring on the gore – what, I ask, is not to love here?

As a classic horror fan, I honestly can’t think of anything.

Bottom line, whether The Woman In Black first catches your eye because it’s a horror flick or because it’s got Daniel Radcliffe at the top of the billing line, it’s definitely worth checking out.  You may also want to invest in a night light afterwards, but that is, of course, entirely up to you.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2015

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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