Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama, Horror
  • 2012

The Woman in Black

Film4 The Woman in Black

Synopsis

A Victorian solicitor (Daniel Radcliffe) crosses paths with an aggrieved ghost in the screen adaptation of Susan Hill's novel and the sell-out stage play it spawned.

About

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, my babies!" (delivered in a blood-curdling scream) is the first line of dialogue we hear in The Woman in Black. And it sets a precedent for the rest of the film. Subtle, this ain't. But then subtlety isn't really what Hammer horror's all about.

This is the company's third film since it resurrected its production arm in 2008, and it's classic Hammer territory. Adapted from Susan Hill's quintessential ghost story (and subsequent stage play), the film follows the fated journey of Victorian solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role) to a particularly bleak corner of North Yorkshire where he must go through the papers of a recently-deceased widow in a particularly creepy and isolated house. As is the habit of all horror protagonists, he blindly ignores the warnings of the terrified locals to keep away and it's not long before the titular woman makes her appearance. Suffice to say she's not very welcoming.

Jane Goldman's screenplay reaps every horror staple from Hill's book - and, in fact, any ghost story ever written - and chucks them gleefully into the mix. Thus we get glassy-eyed, sinister children (living and dead), rocking chairs that rock by themselves (creaking, naturally), music boxes that wind themselves up, a deranged grieving mother with a penchant for automatic writing and, of course, some really, really creepy toys. Not to mention the ebonygarbed woman herself who, let's face it, wouldn't be nearly so scary if she were dressed in a less horror-friendly shade of burnt orange or cerise.

Radcliffe has already proven his non-wizarding acting credentials on screen and stage, so it's a shame that this role doesn't give him that much to chew on. His character is really just a cipher to launch a series of shocks at, and it's perhaps because of this that he has a tendency to fall back on the tried-and-tested techniques he picked up at the Harry Potter school of acting.

Still, no matter. The shocks - and there are plenty of them - are lots of fun. As in the stage play, sound is key. It's all about those unexpected shrieks and bangs that get you jumping out of your seat. Sudden close-ups of contortedly screeching (and dodgily face-painted) faces are in no short supply either. Nor are "it's behind you" moments. In many ways watching The Woman in Black is more like a ride on a ghost train than a trip to the cinema.

Unsophisticated though the film may be, it's undeniably entertaining (at least for horror and/or fairground ride fans) and it's good to see Hammer doing what it does best.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer
  • Director: James Watkins
  • Screen Writer: Jane Goldman
  • Photographer: Tim Maurice-Jones
  • Composer: Marco Beltrami

In a nutshell

Shocktastic and schlocktastic, The Woman in Black is lots of fun, though not for the faint-hearted.

by Rebecca Davies

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Maidan

    Documentary portrait of the winter 2013/14 Ukrainian demonstrations in Kiev against the pro-Moscow presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and for a greater integration with Europe.

  • Film4

    The Confessions Of Thomas Quick

    Brian Hill's chilling documentary about Sweden's most notorious serial killer

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Guests announced for Film4 FrightFest 2015

    Barbara Crampton, Rick Wakeman, James Cosmo, Toyah Willcox, Neil Marshall and Bernard Rose amongst dazzling array of guests set to re-animate FrightFest... Scream Queen legend Barbara Crampton is F

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Toby Amies on The Man Whose Mind Exploded

    Ahead of the TV premiere of The Man Whose Mind Exploded, Film4.com editor Michael Leader speaks with director Toby Amies about his fascinating documentary about the friendship he forged with the colou

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share