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: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds
  • 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 Suffragette

    Suffragette

    Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham-Carter star in Sarah Gavron's drama about the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement

  • Film4 Notorious

    Notorious

    The story of the life and death of Chris Wallace, known to his fans as the legendary rap artist Notorious B.I.G.

  • Film4

    Saoirse Ronan on Arrietty

    The actress talks about lending her voice to the Studio Ghibli adventure

  • Film4 Hope Springs

    Hope Springs on Film4

    Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star as a married couple who turn to Steve Carell's therapist for help with spicing things up in David Frankel's authentic comedy-drama on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Bobcat Goldthwait on God Bless America

    "To me, the best part about being famous is taking down phonies..." As God Bless America receives its UK TV premiere on Film4, writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait (World¿s Greatest Dad, Willow Creek) lo

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Editor Chris Wyatt on '71

    Editor Chris Wyatt has worked on modern classics of film and TV including  Dead Man¿s Shoes, Dreams Of A Life and Dead Set. Here, he talks about his work with Yann Demange on ¿71, out now on DVD and B

Rent now on Film4od

Available to rent for £2.49

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share