Daniel Radcliffe breaks out of the Harry Potter mold in The Woman in Black. The film is a creepy and atmospheric horror flick that offers up plenty of scares and jumps, but what it doesn’t have is a well-balanced story that builds off of its characters. It jumps from point to point, only connecting the scares with minor dialogue and a story that makes as much sense as any other mainstream horror film today. James Watkins films everything with an old-school horror mentality, but his lack of detail and connectivity makes The Woman in Black a flawed tale of loneliness and curiosity.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer that travels to a distant town to investigate a slightly unusual case. A ghostly woman in haunting and terrorizing a town, specifically the children and Mr. Kipps has decided to take the case head-on and stay at the haunted house that the woman is often seen at. In doing so he opens up a can of worms that he probably shouldn’t have and a wave of chills is sent up his spine and of those around him.
Children start dying and the townspeople get more and more upset with Arthur as he brings up a forgotten past and tries to solve this mystery before he loses his own sanity.
The Woman in Black plays out very traditionally, with lots of scream-inducing jump scares and good old fashioned haunting imagery. Everything has a gloomy and hazy look to it and the dark colors help build a cold and lifeless array of visuals. Director James Watkins relies on simple and sometimes complicated scares to get the audience’s attention and The Woman in Black works on that front, but once you start peeling away the layers of the film you’ll begin to notice its problems.
There’s just not enough connective story to keep everything at bay. Arthur Kipps has a story, with a background and a not so hopeful future, but aside from him and the occasional appearance by Ciarán Hinds, the film doesn’t offer anything outside of your usual winter horror flick. It’s got the scares, but it doesn’t have the balls to deliver a story that’s as engaging and uncomfortable as the scares.
Watkins keeps the first act simple with more than enough ghost appearances, but then the film drags its knuckles carelessly through act two, which leads into a rushed act three that wraps things up way too fast and without enough room to allow any sort of reaction. The ending will leave many displeased.
The Woman in Black has scares and scenery and a performance by Daniel Radcliffe that proves he can hold his own in films outside of the Harry Potter series, but that’s all the film has going for it and that just isn’t enough.
The film is very dark, yet it looks stunning on Blu-Ray. The transfer is even throughout, giving you the best presentation possible while maintaining the director’s intentions. Skin tones are on the pale side, with clothing and most of the settings looking black and washed away, but still holding onto every last bit of detail. Sony is known for treating their new release titles with the utmost care and quality and The Woman in Black is just another shining example.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is just a continuation of its video counterpart. It’s every bit as evoking and powerful, but instead of pleasing your eyes it attacks your ears. The track works best whenever the tension is slowly brewing, allowing for each channel to slowly work its way up your back and into your brain. Dialogue is never a problem through the front channel.
The Woman in Black isn’t loaded with special features, but it does come with a few keepers. Here’s a list below:
- Audio Commentary
- Inside the Perfect Thriller: Making The Woman in Black (HD)
- No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps (HD)
- Previews (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
I was really hoping The Woman in Black would break the winter horror movie mold and be something more than just scares and ghostly images, but that isn’t the case here. The film does lean more towards traditional scares with actual buildup and payoff, but aside from a chain of finely directed/acted scenes, The Woman in Black falls at the waist side somewhere near the middle act and it never fully recuperates.
The Blu-Ray is another winner from Sony in both the video and audio fields, but the special features are short and generic. I don’t think fans will need to be reminded about this title, but if you’re in the mood for a decent horror film I’d suggest checking this out at some point in time.