This review won’t be very detailed… as I think I only saw about half the film actually in focus through my glasses. The rest of it was spent with my gaze fixed on the bottom of the screen so that I could still see what was going on (over the top of my glasses and so as a vague blur, even four rows from the front) enough to follow the story – but not enough to be scared out of my chair by the sudden, rotting appearances of said Woman in Black.
I wanted to see this film primarily because I wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe not being Harry Potter, and also because sometimes I get these urges to go against type and watch scary films, even though as soon as I sit down I remember that I don’t enjoy being made to jump every five seconds. The Woman in Black wasn’t actually too bad in this respect – it did make you jump but not just for the sake of it, and when it did it was actually terrifying, unlike Drag Me To Hell, which was just disappointing (and exhausting!).
The Woman in Black did reinforce one suspicion that I’ve had for a long time – children are creepy. On a ghost walk in York none of the stories that the guide told were quite so chilling as the one involving disembodied children’s laughter, and small, cold hands slipping into yours as you walked along. Wet, dead children are even creepier, and there were certainly a lot of those in this film. There’s a reason why I didn’t go and see The Ring, and I was reminded of it almost every scene throughout The Woman in Black!
Radcliffe was impressive as grieving, haunted lawyer Arthur Kipps, and Ciaran Hinds a strong supporter as firmly grounded Tom Daily. The real star – if that’s the right word – of the film was the Woman in Black, an unquestionably malevolent spirit on a very effective quest for revenge. The split second views of her are the most hard-hitting, glimpses in reflections, through a zoetrope and just before the camera switches angles. The tension is built and built, in almost every scene there’s an unescapable sense of threat that has you jumping at bottles being opened, or water coming out of taps as you frantically search the edges of the screen for whatever is unquestionably lurking just out of sight.
The film is uncompromisingly bleak, even the ending, which attempts at least a little redemption for all involved, is hardly happy, and I stumbled out of the cinema in serious need of some bright lights and laughter. For scares and chills perfectly balanced against jumps and shocks, The Woman in Black excels. Genuinely frightening, this film for the most part manages to avoid descending into cliche and convention, giving a satisfying and enjoyable – in a dark sort of way! – experience.