By Lisa Henderson
Diehard Harry Potter fans can breathe a sigh of relief – their beloved Daniel Radcliffe has proven with his starring role in a remake of the 1989 horror film The Woman in Black that he is not typecast in cinema. This gloomy, creepy film isn’t likely to stand alongside the best horror films of the decade, but is still worth a viewing because of its ability to make you feel legitimately unsafe and unsettled. Although it did not reign supreme at the box office, it took a remarkably close second to Chronicle, earning $21 million for the weekend.
The concept isn’t too original yet still allows for a decent plotline. Radcliffe portrays the role of young lawyer Arthur Kipps, a financially-struggling father to a four-year-old son, Joseph. We quickly learn that Kipps’ wife died while giving birth to their son. Kipps is assigned to handle the account for a huge estate built on a marsh and soon begins hearing eerie sounds throughout the house.
He has multiple sightings of a ghostly woman, dressed in a black gown, who previously lived at the estate and now haunts the grounds. Of course, all trapped spirits have a motive – hers being the need to convince innocent children to kill themselves so that she can “love” and keep them as her own, which is an imaginative twist on the traditional ghost story. However, because of heavy accents and quick speech, portions of the plot are difficult to grasp.
Kipps isn’t much of a personality, and is actually somewhat boring, speaking minimally and showing little emotion other than “somewhat afraid” or “slightly confused.” However, this does not mean that Radcliffe didn’t do his character justice; he quite obviously did the best he could with the role he was given. It initially seems a bit odd that his child was 4 years old, as Radcliffe physically looks rather young, but a well-conveyed, strong connection between Kipps and Joseph makes the relationship much more believable.
Despite confusion-induced plotholes and dull characters, this film is truly scary. There are multiple moments created solely to make the audience jump, scream and generally freak out. The woman is an eerie, evil apparition, whose shriek is literally bloodcurdling. She also tends to manipulate things, like creaking rocking chairs and creepy wind up toys. The woman actually doesn’t appear too often, but when she does, you may find yourself praying for skinny little Kipps; her appearance is ghastly and distorted.
While casting Radcliffe may not have been more than a ploy for gathering audiences, he still deserves credit for his performance. The Woman in Black isn’t likely to stand out in an endless sea of average horror movies, but it’s still worth watching for those who thoroughly enjoy being scared.