After almost a decade of chilling horror films playing second fiddle to the gore-fest torture porn of Hostel and Saw, it’s time for Hammer Horror to strike back with vengeance and reclaim the throne as masters of chills with their version of The Woman In Black. An adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Susan Hill, it’s time for Daniel Radcliffe to make a name for himself in his most high-profile silver screen appearance since portraying that school-boy wizard.
The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliffe as troubled young solicitor Arthur Kipps, a man who has never quite come to terms with his wife’s death during labour three years ago. He is entrusted to travel to the Eel Marsh Manor and its neighbouring town in order to sort out the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. His arrival in the town is not welcomed however, and it seems that his journey to the manor has reawakened an evil that has haunted the townsfolk for many years.
Set in Edwardian England, complete with the disturbed hero, hostile townsfolk, and an eerie haunted house, Hammer have perhaps chosen the perfect source material for their next cinema outing. Foggy mists and apparitions from the corner of your eye create a truly unnerving atmosphere that does a perfect job of preparing the audience for the roller-coaster ride that’s about to begin.
After a slow start, the amount of jumps and scares throughout the film’s main act are aplenty. Between screaming poltergeists, hypnotised children and objects moving of their own accord, the film had me on the edge of my seat for the most part. You know you’re in for a scare when creepy children’s toys and rocking chairs move of their own accord. Even character-driven scenes seem eerily overshadowed by presence of ghostly apparitions, demonstrating that director James Watkins can still keep a firm grasp on the audience without losing any of the horror momentum.
All credit to Daniel Radcliffe, he does decent job portraying Arthur Kipps. His glassy blue eyes do more than make Harry Potter fan girls go weak at the knees, they also add to the grief of a character who clearly hasn’t come to terms with his loss. Ciaran Hinds portrays the only real supporting character, wealthy landlord Sam Daily who acts as the unrelenting skeptic to Arthur’s believer. Together the pair act as a Mulder and Scully type duo, trying to solve the mystery behind Eels Marsh Manor.
I could go on to say that the film’s ending is perhaps it’s weakest point. From the outset, it’s easy to work out how the Woman in Black influences the townsfolk, as well as the eventual fate of Arthur Kipps and his family. However, upon leaving the cinema that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind – I was focused on the jump-out-of-your-seat scares and the nailbiting chills along the way. Which, upon reflection, is what the film was designed to do. The Woman In Black is a satisfying horror film and definitely a return to form for the Hammer Horror brand.