The Woman in Black

Directed By: James Watkins

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White, and Alisa Khasanova

Most scary movies these days just don't get the job done.  Ghost stories and old school thrillers have gone out of fashion.  We're left with remakes of 80s slasher flicks like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th that can never quite live up to the originals.  Alternatively, we get unnecessarily gory films that are tantamount to torture porn like Saw and Final Destination.  Either way, we usually don't get scary movies anymore.  Finally, we’re getting a good old-fashioned ghost story with some traditional thrills in The Woman in Black.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young attorney from London tasked with wrapping up the legal affairs of Alice Drablow, who recently passed away.  A young widower, he leaves his son Joseph (Misha Handley) in London while he goes to Drablow's hometown.  He promises Joseph that they will be together on Friday.  Arthur buys Joseph a train ticket so that he can come up to Drablow's town at that time.  When Arthur arrives in town however, he witnesses a young girl committing suicide. He soon learns that there's a ghost known as The Woman in Black (Liz White) out to kill all the children in town, and her main residence is Eel Marsh where Arthur must go to settle the affairs of Drablow.

For his first role after the mammoth Harry Potter franchise, Daniel Radcliffe has made an interesting choice.  The Woman in Black is an old school thriller that follows in the tradition of modern ghost stories like The Others, The Sixth Sense, and The Orphanage.  There's no magic or wizardry in this one, just good old-fashioned horror.  We've sorely missed this kind of terror in theaters, and it's refreshing to see this type of flick.  I'm a grown man, so I don't say this lightly.  There were a few moments that caught me by surprise and unnerved me a bit.  I commend director James Watkins for this accomplishment.  Scaring me is a tough thing to do. 

Though The Woman in Black is a decent ghost story, it makes the same mistakes of many other scary films before it.  I realize the movie is based on the book by Susan Hill, but screenwriter Jane Goldman needed to step up to the plate and do some better writing.  Radcliffe's Arthur Kipp is doing some really stupid stuff throughout the film that is only acceptable in the dumbest of horror movies.  For instance, Arthur hears noises in a dead woman's home out in the middle of a marsh.  Fully aware of the townspeople's belief in the Woman in Black, he ventures through the house looking for whoever is making these noises.  If that's not idiotic, I don't know what is.  If I hear noises in a dead woman's home, get me the hell out of there.  I understand that this is all done to keep the plot moving forward, but this is clearly an indication of poor writing in parts of the film.  It definitely takes away from the movie.  I never empathize with the fool who jumps in the shark's mouth.

Overall, The Woman in Black is a decent ghost story.  Despite some shoddy writing at times, I have to appreciate a throwback thriller like this.  We rarely get a ghost story these days.  If you're looking for some real scares, have a little chardonnay with this one.  The Woman in Black gets a 0.06% rating.