Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Woman in Black: a Review

This movie should be retitled: A House that Creaks, A Ghost that Screams, and a Protagonist that does Incredibly Stupid Things, with a disclaimer stating that it's not scary at all. It's mainly scary how bad it is. Even Dan Radcliffe's performance fails to deliver; it's bland, unvarying, and very much like the film itself.

Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer raising a 4-year-old son (his wife died in childbirth) during the Edwardian era. He is sent to finalize the last will and testament of posh lady Alice Drablow, who owned the creepy estate in question. If the film were to receive an award, the house would probably get an award for Best Actor. It creaks and thuds, it blares disembodied music from music boxes, and it hides people that appear and disappear. It's clearly haunted.

Yes, I'm being very sarcastic, but this movie warrants it. I was extremely puzzled by the lack of logical explanations for almost all of Arthur Kipps' actions. When Lord Byron said that truth is stranger than fiction, I'm sure he meant that fiction must have enough reason to tie it together. This film doesn't. Kipps is your typical horror movie character, characterized by bravery to the point of stupidity. The house is clearly haunted from the start; he hears footsteps and even sees a woman in black who isn't there the next time he looks. Any normal person would have gotten the hell out of there.

The ghost does nothing but screams and kills children. Thank goodness there's neither blood nor gore. Again, it puzzles me that Kipps doesn't leave the town after he's seen the ghost in a fire that killed several kids. None of it makes sense, so you're left thinking about these technicalities while you're supposed to be cowering under the seats in fear.

The only aspects of the film that try to convey terror are the retro-effect cameras that make everything rather dark, and the crescendos in the film score that swell to a deadly silence. The plot consists mostly of tension and release, tension and release, tension and...JUMP SCARE!!! Of course, the jump scares hardly ever prove to be that terrifying. So much for a horror movie.

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