The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black move poster, copyright 2012 Hammer Film Productions, Alliance Films, UK Film Council

The Woman in Black move poster, copyright 2012 Hammer Film Productions, Alliance Films, UK Film Council

The Woman in Black is a double adaption, first from the Victorian style novel by Susan Hill, secondly from the outstanding, terrifying and money making play. With both versions being highly successful, a film was the obvious way to go- especially with its success guaranteed by putting a big name (Daniel Radcliffe) – with a need to prove himself – post-Potter in the lead.
Despite this, with so much going for it, there was no way that  it could deliver.
A young widowed lawyer is sent to a big scary house to sort through the dead owner’s papers. As soon as he sets off funny things start happening, and before long he’s stuck in a mess of ghosts, deaths and unfriendly locals. Even for a horror story it’s simple- just a guy and a mystery- and the story’s the one thing that’s stayed consistent through all of the adaptations, and probably a cornerstone of the success. Someone writing the screenplay should have paid attention to this. While changes don’t mean failure, you have to make them for a reason, especially when the source you’re working on was popular. The film, while sticking to the plot pretty closely, gets bad when it deviates. More often this is in the classic ‘more is better’ way- instead of having a father tell the story of his child’s death, we have the child possess someone and tell it themselves, complete with scary voice.
On the other hand, when it isn’t doing all it can to overwhelm you it’s pretty good- the opening half in particular is atmospheric and subtle, as perfect as an on screen version of the play could be. Radcliffe manages to get the terrified protagonist down while keeping him sympathetic, the locals are stereotypes, but creepy stereotypes, and it felt like a proper old fashioned horror film.
This isn’t necessary viewing for anyone, especially not if you’re protective of the play, but it’s harmless and reasonably scary fun.

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