The trouble with ghost stories is that they all rely on the same devices to make you jump. The Woman in Black
, starring Daniel Radcliffe, is no different.
very haunted-looking house! Kudos to the set designers and decorators.
Poor Arthur Kipps’ (Radcliffe) life is already scary enough without the addition of vengeful ghosts. He’s a young widower, left with a 4-year-old son (played by Radcliffe’s real-life godson Misha Handley) to raise, stacks of unpaid bills, and a job in jeopardy. He’s a lawyer who’s apparently been distracted and lax since his wife’s death. His boss sends him on a job that no one wants -- a trip to a remote village to go through the papers of a deceased client. The boss indicates that this is his last chance. When he arrives in the village, he finds that no one wants him there, and everyone is leery of the place he has to go. Eel Marsh House is the highly unpleasant estate of the late Alice Drablow. It’s cut off from the mainland for hours every day at high tide. Of course, it wouldn’t be a good ghost story if Arthur didn’t get trapped there overnight. The story takes place in the first decade of the 20th century, so electricity is not widespread in remote places like Eel Marsh House. Candlelight helps with the eerie atmosphere, insuring that nothing can be clearly seen -- another ghost story stock item. The villagers are all deathly afraid of the ghost of Eel Marsh House, known as the woman in black, because every time she’s seen by someone, a child in the village dies tragically. As small as this village is, it’s amazing that any children are left at all! As the story progresses, you do eventually find out who the ghost is and why she’s so angry and bent on revenge. You’ll either like the ending or not depending on whom you think should win – the human or the ghost. I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Daniel Radcliffe and Eel Marsh House are the best things in this film. However, if Radcliffe wants to distance himself from the Harry Potter series, he would do well to avoid anything related to the supernatural. He does an admirable job of portraying Arthur’s anguish and confusion. Unlike the other teen favorites -- um, the Twilight actors for instance -- Radcliffe can actually act. I’d love to see him in something totally contemporary and comic because I think he has the range to do it. I didn’t think the film was particularly scary.
Bottom line, The Woman in Black is an average ghost story. If you’re a teen-ager, you’ll probably scream a few times. Otherwise, I thought the creepiest things in the film were the toys in the abandoned nursery.